Strengthening Nutrition Outcomes Amidst Climate Change Threats

As climate change continues to raise concerns on human survival, especially in the area of food security and good nutrition, stakeholders at the recently organised policy dialogue by the Nigeria Health Watch held in Abuja, with the theme, ‘Strengthening Nutrition Outcomes in the Face of Climate Change’, deliberated on way to ensure food security and nutrition outcomes are strengthened amidst threats by climate change. Sunday Ehigiator reports

In recent times, food production has become increasingly challenging and unpredictable as global temperatures increase because of shifts in weather patterns, ranging from extreme weather events to environmental disruptions.

The effects of climate change on food insecurity have now become very direct and substantial.

Negative indices

According to The World Count, about 9 million people around the world die every year of hunger and hunger-related diseases. This is more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Globally, 822 million people suffer from undernourishment, while at least 3.1 million children die from poor nutrition and hunger every year.

In Nigeria, one in 10 children die from hunger before the age of five, and an estimated 25 million people are at risk of food insecurity. Also, 17 million people are currently at risk of food insecurity, this is according to a report from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria ranks 103rd out of 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores. With a score of 27.3, Nigeria has a level of hunger that is serious.

SDGs and Food insecurity

Recent figures from UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) show that Nigeria is not on track in achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, zero hunger, and SDG 3, good health and well-being, by 2030.

According to the FAO, a person is food insecure when they lack regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and active, healthy life.

Unfortunately in Nigeria, continued conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices are key drivers of food insecurity.

Food access has been affected by persistent violence in the north-east states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) and armed banditry and kidnapping in states such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue and Niger.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency, widespread flooding in the 2022 rainy season damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands, which diminished harvests and increased the risk of food insecurity for families across the country.

Flooding is one of the effects of climate change and variability impacting Nigeria. More extreme weather patterns affecting food security are anticipated in the future.

The reality of climate change

The reality of climate change and the frequency of its unpleasant consequences constitute significant threats to human lives across different regions of the world. The adverse outcome of climate change has necessitated global concerns and efforts at mitigating its effects as well as advocacy for measures that would restrict human actions that induce climate change.

Climate change refers to changes in the mean variability properties of the climate, which persists over an extended period, typically within decades or longer.

Climate refers to the atmospheric condition of a particular location over a longer period. The climatic condition is the long-term summation of the atmospheric elements such as solar radiation, temperature, relative humidity and precipitation and their variations over a long period.

The persistent departure from the mean or/and variability properties of the climate is referred to as climate change. The main cause of climate change experienced in the present time is the human expansion of the greenhouse effect.

Human beings progressively utter the concentration of greenhouse gases and aerosols, both of which influence the climate negatively; the consequence of this is the resultant effect on food production.

Climate change poses a challenge to achieving SDG 2, zero Hunger, and SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being, as food production heavily relies on climatic factors like rainfall, temperature, and humidity.

Stakeholder’s prepositions

To address this menace and as part of efforts to strengthen and increase understanding of the linkages between climate change, food security and nutrition and improving policies and practices for nutrition security, experts at the 2023 Nutrition Policy Dialogue say countries must deploy mechanisms to ensure resilient food production systems that will translate to better nutrition for the populace.

The programme brought together stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as civil society organisations, to present issues affecting Nigerians’ public health, discuss potential solutions and opportunities for progress, and chart actionable recommendations for policy actions.

The dialogue drew participants from the government, including the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Environment, academia, researchers, development partners, civil society, nutrition commodities manufacturing and marketing organisations, relevant groups, associations and healthcare providers.

They said, in Nigeria, the National Climate Change Act supports the implementation of measures to curb the impact of climate change on food production; and direct nutrition interventions can reduce vulnerability and build resilience to climate change consequences.

Dangers of overlooking climate impact on nutrition

Opening the discussions, Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, stressed the dangers of overlooking the impact of climate change not just on health and well-being but on nutrition outcomes.

According to her, “Hunger and poor nutrition continue to be a very pressing global issue and have claimed many lives not just in Nigeria but around the world. The impact of climate change will continue to compound our ability to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are aware of the impact of climate change, and its impact on health and wellbeing, and nutrition outcomes, especially for children. Hence, we must work collaboratively to tackle this rising menace head-on.

“The nexus between climate change and nutrition is a formidable reality and hampers our ability to provide sustainable food, which affects our children’s access to nutritious diets. It also leads to inflation, as it destroys farm produce and livestock.

“Stakeholders, including the government at the national and sub-national levels, private sector, farmers, and others play a very important role in shaping the trajectory of the nation’s climate and food security.”

Outlook for food security

In his keynote address, the Director and Head, Prevention and Control of Micronutrient Deficiency at the Federal Ministry of Health, Chief John Uruakpa, stated that the prevalence of food insecurity and the burden of malnutrition will be further worsened as climate change continues to unfold in Nigeria.

According to him, “The government must ensure nutrition is addressed in climate-resilient development and national climate change processes, plans and programmes.

“We must also Increase policy coherence and multidisciplinary collaboration at local, regional, national and international levels to enhance food chain sustainability and local access to adequate nutrition, while promoting the rights of the vulnerable people to essential livelihood resources, including land rights and access to or protection of fishing grounds.”

UNICEF call for awareness

In her address, UNICEF Chief of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Dr Jane Bevan, said “If people are made more aware about the issues of climate change, and know how it affects them and their communities, then they will work towards that and demand from the government that more is done about it.

“We also need to sensitize the local governments about the issues of climate change. While there is a need for investment, we need more advocacies.”

Exploring innovative financing

In his address, the Country Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Dr Michael Ojo, stressed the importance of exploring innovative financing mechanisms to mobilise resources for climate change adaptation, agricultural development, and nutrition interventions.

“These include leveraging public-private partnerships, exploring climate finance opportunities, and promoting investments in sustainable agriculture and nutrition.

“Access to clean water, proper sanitation facilities, and hygiene practices directly impact nutritional outcomes, particularly in vulnerable populations such as children and women.”

Concerns on policy implementation

In his remarks, the Senior Programme Officer of USAID Advancing Nutrition Programme, Dr Chukwuma Anene, echoed the concerns about policy implementation challenges and highlighted other persistent gaps in addressing sustainability.

He identified insufficient mainstreaming, inadequate integration of climate change considerations into food security, limited capacity to interpret policies, and a lack of comprehensiveness as key obstacles against policy implementation.

“We have inadequate institutional and human capacity. We don’t have enough evidence-based data that would be a necessary action for policy development and decision making.”

He also stressed the importance of sustainable financing while also urging the government and policymakers to allocate and release adequate funding for climate change and nutrition issues to ensure the successful implementation of integrated policies and programmes.

White-paper proposition

A White-paper on Climate change and nutrition released at the end of the dialogue called for an integrated approach to be deployed and for all relevant sectors to be involved in this approach.

It noted there is a need to include climate change factors into consideration while designing interventions and/or programmes such as what stakeholders in the nutrition space like United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF and others do.

It stated that “Food production has gone down and will continue to go down if we do nothing. And will worsen diverse forms of malnutrition. Agriculture in Nigeria is largely rain-fed and climate change negatively impacts crop productivity by decreasing crop yield and soil fertility. Besides this, global hunger is not only about lack of food, currently, the world produces enough food to nourish every child, woman and man on the planet but nearly one-third of all the food products each year are lost before they are consumed.

“In Nigeria, farmers lose 50 per cent of their farm produce and 30 per cent of grains before they reach the market due to lack of many climate-induced factors such as high temperature that trickles down to moulds ruining foods, lack of technology and so on. Little wonder why one in 10 children die from hunger before their fifth birthday and 32 per cent of children less than five years old are stunted, making Nigeria the country with the second highest burden of stunted children in the world.”

On WASH, the White-paper said sanitation indices are appalling and almost a quarter of Nigerians do not have access to WASH. It observed there is a close correlation between sanitation, hand-washing and hygiene to climate change. “Also, nutrition is linked to WASH in no small way. Even though 90 per cent know how to wash hands properly, only eight per cent practice it.”

It called for enhancing the capacity of smallholder farmers by exposing them to new technology, exposing them to good agricultural practices such as diversification, introducing them to climate resistance seeds and livestock, and helping them learn sustainable farm practices that will reduce damage to the environment through harvest.

It also recommended “enhancement of community members in sustainable and environment-friendly method of storage; holistic approach, bottom top and top bottom for specific approached to target different levels of people; need to include the ministry of health in the steering committee for climate change; integrate climate change in the programming for food security; strengthen the capacity of both farmers (on the use of inorganic fertilizers) and the community; strengthen the leadership; prioritise evidence generation, quality data; increased funding for these climate adaptation approaches, make a budget and release funds for climate change interventions.”


Director of Programmes, Nigeria Health Watch, Kemisola Agbaoye, Managing Director Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, Country Director- GAIN, Dr Michael Ojo, WASH Section UNICEF Nigeria, Dr Jane Bevan, Senior Programme Officer USAID Advancing Nutrition, Chukwuma Anene, Director & Head MIcronutrient Deficiency FMoH, Chief John Uruakpa, at the, just concluded Nutrition Policy Dialogue, held in Abuja

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