By Duncan Mboyah
A Kenyan scholar has attributed low nutrition in Africa to increased adverse effects of climate change.
Dr. Sophia Ngala, a senior lecturer and head of applied human nutrition in the department of food science nutrition and technology at the University of Nairobi (UoN) said that increased temperature leads to crops maturing earlier than usual hence causing malnutrition.
“This leads to harvest of crops with reduced micronutrients such as iron, zinc and phosphates,” Dr. Ngala told journalists. She was speaking during a media breakfast meeting organized by African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) in partnership with the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association.
Dr. Ngala said that studies conducted by the university have shown that climate change reduces the nutritional quality of food hence leading to cases of malaria, iron deficiency, malnutrition, anemia, diarrheal disease and pneumonia.
She noted that the condition leaves people vulnerable to low immunity hence making it difficult for people who get infected by COVID 19 to recover in time.
The scholar added that increase in temperature leads to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) that also increases synthesis of carbohydrates (starch/sugar) that affects food production.
She observed that as temperature increases, there is decrease in concentration of protein, vitamins and minerals that are critical for human health.
Dr. Ngala also revealed that increased temperature also increases physical and emotional stress that causes development of the new born child hence influences birth weight outcomes.
She noted that increased temperatures, regional decreases in rainfall and unstable food production will result in an increased risk of future low-birth-weight babies in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA).
Dr. Ngala calls for the development of policies that incorporate nutrition in climate change action plans.
She added that technologies such as bio fortification be embraced to help replenish the lost nutrients.
Dr. Eliya Zulu, executive director of AFIDEP called for the use of evidence in transforming lives and actions in the continent.
Dr. Zulu said that there is urgent need to include health in climate change deliberations adding that climate change alters an extensive range of natural ecological and physical systems integral to earth’s life support system.
He noted that if not checked in time, climate change is likely to slow down efforts to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.
Prof. William Ogara, associate professor in the department of public health, pharmacology and toxicology at the UoN called for the development of integrated solutions in managing climate change in Africa.
He urged governments to embrace an interdisciplinary planetary health approach in managing challenges caused by climate change and enhanced surveillance and reporting systems, particularly in disease-free areas.