Leave medicine in the chemist’s pot if you can cure your patients with food. – Hippocrates –The above mentioned saying of Hippocrates demonstrates the importance of food in regard to its contribution to the individual health.
Lifestyle can denote the interests, opinions, behaviors, and behavioral orientations of an individual, group, or culture. This includes the work we do, our leisure activities, the food we eat, our interaction with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers etc, however, our discussion on this concept will focus on the transition of food eating habit from urban to rural and vis-à-vis. Remember food is the mediator of the individual and the environment, as the interaction of these determines our nutritional status.
Somalia is among the countries that have local communities that feed on local foods such as sorghum, meat, milk, Semsem oil, butter, vegetable and fruits. Much as there is difference among the people in rural and urban areas, majority of the Somalis both in urban and rural residents do not have enough knowledge on the types of the food.
Besides this, Somali People do not pay much attention to the foods that they are supposed to feed on. Such as Body building foods, e.g., milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses, groundnuts etc. Energy-giving foods, e.g., cereals, sugars, roots & tubers, fats and oils. Protective foods, e.g., vegetables, fruits, milk etc. This might be because most of them do not understand the association between individual health, food and productivity of the society neither have they contrived on the way forward. The evidence is that when you look at the person preparing the food, you might find a nine year old girl that does not have any idea or training on food preparation methods or ways of cooking balanced foods, acts as the chef.
This above mentioned scenario is motivated by the culture of child labour in Somalia where there is a common saying I quote, “she reached at the age of food preparation; let her cook the food alone”. This opposes the scientifically recommended way that food preparation must be given the first priority through scheduling weekly balanced food timetable and appropriate person for this duty.
In regard to rural and urban lifestyles of Somali people, in terms of food; there was a difference in the standard of living, foods eaten, exercises done, leisure and accommodation sites or dwellings but no longer did this exist. The discrepancy was due to the variation in the available foods and non-food items both in rural and urban areas. Nevertheless, the emerging Somali lifestyle shows there is huge health and societal threats that if a genuine action against it is not taken urgently, it could lead to a national nutritional catastrophe and eventually lead to under development.
The good news is that the Somalia’s Federal government has contracted a Turkish company, to help inspect the quality of import and export products in a move to guard against importing of harmful and substandard products and implement quality assurance standards (minister of Industry and Commerce, 2015). However, this process outwardly “Costs an arm and a leg”. Because, since the collapse of the Central government in 1991, markets in Somalia have not been regulated; and the country become a booming market for counterfeits of different products including food products.
Previously, this dilemma of the imported foods puzzle was only bounded with the urban communities. However, in this era the reverse is true! Urban and rural residents feed on the same imported foods whereas the rural communities face more negative health effects than the urban inhabitants.
The concern is that, you may find a store keeper receiving a call from his customer in a village who is putting an order of three liter bottle of cooking oil, quarter of wheat flour, quarter of sugar, quarter of rice and half box of pasta. Most of these above mentioned foods are energy-giving foods. Since these foods cannot intercede the environment and the individuals, one immediate outcome of this imbalance can be “loss of appetite”.
Practically, visit your next village and have a close observation for those practicing imported foods at village level, you may find a teenage who is keeping an animal; goats, cattle or the camel and having one cup of black tea and two piece of “Somali Anjera” that is sometimes dry Anjera. The next time of meal is around at 5:00pm, the time of bringing animals back home or nearby home areas (Saba da). Certainly, this practice could lead to malnutrition.
Given the different assignments carried out in urban and rural areas, take few minutes and ask yourself if both the lifestyles of urban and rural areas in Somalia can be interchanged? Furthermore, if you receive all of the above mentioned food items from the market, how will you get other food quality and taste complementing items including vegetables and fruits such as bananas from a rural setting?
Dear reader, above and beyond the loss of appetite, will this not show that people in rural areas eat food with less quality than the foods served to people in urban areas? While our society in rural areas do more laborious job than the urban residents. Regrettably, the immunization coverage of children living in villages is far below the target level, whereas some of them have never been vaccinated and this makes them susceptible to all opportunistic and communicable diseases.
Somali proverb says “floods are prevented before it reaches you”, and this does the same, if we don’t acknowledge our responsibility at community level, we shall be shouldering it at individual level and this will not be a cost-effective strategy. Therefore, to avert this emerging threat from this new lifestyle, we have to draw more attention to the foods we eat by observing weekly scheduled of balanced diet and cooked by a skilled person. The community should be mobilized on the relationships between the environment, individual and foods. Emphasizes must be put on eating indigenous foods. Both rural and urban residents are not comparable in terms of their needs to macro and micronutrients, therefore much awareness should be created on these issues so as the nutritional intake of a person depends on his/her immediate environment (Urban/Rural).
Lastly, to address all these issues it calls for a concerted efforts and serious engagement of the government, private institutions and humanitarian organization to play their respective roles in raising the community’s awareness on this matter and long term engagement so as to a healthy nation.
Mr. Mohamed Ali Magan,
Horizon Public Health Consultancy International