In spite of this, people do not consume enough fruit and vegetables. Over 75% of adults in low- and middle-income countries consume below the minimum recommended amount. In Tanzania mor, more than 95% of people consume less than the minimum requirements.
Our study shows that in the Nairobi slums, less than half the adult population meets their daily vegetable and fruit requirements. As global fast food outlets flood Kenya’s market, Kenyans prefer junk food, which they view as a status sign.
It could be because of this that there is a high level of diabetes in these slums, where one out of five people suffers from one of the conditions. We also found that less than a quarter (25%) of people with diabetes were aware of it. Fewer than 5% had their blood glucose under control.
Africa’s Fat Map
Increased non-communicable disease rates, such as diabetes, in countries with low and medium incomes, are largely due to rapid urbanization.
The World Health Organisation projects that people living with diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa will double, from 12 million to 24 million over the next 20 years. The World Health Organisation has provided evidence that type 2 diabetes is the main contributor to the rise.
Numerous studies on the continent indicate that obesity and excessive weight are risk factors for developing diabetes.
A review of the Demographic and Health Survey Data from seven African Countries over ten years shows there is a rising trend in overweight and obese women living in urban areas. The increase in overweight and obese urban women is seven times greater among the poorest women than the richest women.
The price is not the issue.
Nairobi’s slums have thriving vegetable markets. Why are slum dwellers not eating enough fruit and vegetables?
We initially thought the cost of fruit and vegetables would be prohibitive to slum dwellers, given that most of them are living on less than two dollars a day.
The price isn’t the only thing that makes people hesitate. Although imported fruit like pomegranates can be pricey, local products such as bananas and the trendy superfood kale are more affordable.
We found that slum dwellers wanted junk food to reflect a higher socioeconomic status.
They are motivated by a combination of clever marketing, celebrity culture, and social media frenzy surrounding the opening of global fast food outlets in Kenya.
In recent years, a number of fast food outlets opened in Nairobi. This has encouraged people to consume highly processed foods. Noor Khamis/Reuters
Who could blame them? In Kenya, many major fast-food chains from around the world have opened up in recent years. These include KFC Chicken and Pizza Hut. More are reportedly eyeing an entry into East Africa’s biggest economy.
Why it is difficult to change eating habits
It’s not easy to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption in slums. One of Kenya’s leading dailies published an article that slammed fruit and vegetables.
Scientists in Nairobi conducted laboratory tests on fruit and vegetable samples from the article. They found that they contained toxic levels of different substances.
The company argued that samples from Sukuma were high in lead. This was most likely due to contaminated riverbeds, where this vegetable is usually grown. Pieces of oranges and bananas showed high levels of calcium carbide, which is illegally used to accelerate the ripening process of fruit.
The article has caused widespread criticism and has made it more difficult for those who live in urban slums to eat vegetables.
The World Health Organization’s recommendation to improve fruit and vegetable consumption is pitched at the highest policy level. One suggestion is to restrict the marketing of foods and beverages for children.
These suggestions may not be practical for the health professionals on the ground.
What message should we send to residents of Nairobi’s Slums, asking the challenge for health professionals? Were we to tell them that they should eat more fruits and vegetables in light of the revelations made in the article? Do we ask them to eat junk food until authorities stop the illegal practices that affect the fruit and vegetable industry?