NIGERIA – Nutrition experts in Nigeria have called for the formulation of a protein-centred national nutrition policy, which would curtail the rising incidence of protein deficiency and general malnutrition across the country.
According to the National Demographic Health Survey 2018 (NDHS) and the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2019, the attitudes and meal behaviours of Nigerians are tilted towards consumption of carbohydrate loaded diets with less regard to protein.
According to Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2017, cases of underweight in Nigeria increased from 25% to 32% and stunted growth from 34.5% to 43.6% between 2007 – 2016. During the period there was no change in wasting with the national prevalence among children under-five years remaining at an average of 10.8%.
To curb the menace, a Protein Challenge Webinar Series with the theme: The Case for a Protein-Centred National Nutrition Policy was recently held to initiate conversations amongst stakeholders in the health/nutrition sector and promote strategies that would help alleviate protein deficiency, with emphasis on protein-rich local food sources, reports Nigeria News Agency.
“Nutritional policies are often created as a response to a population health need and the Nigerian people need access to protein food sources to resolve issues of protein deficiency.”Dr. Adepeju Adeniran
Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, a clinician physician and public expert who delivered the keynote address at the session, argued that a protein-centred national nutrition policy is imperative to reduce the level of protein deficiency in the nation.
According to her, “Nutrition is an essential part of health planning, whether at the individual, sub-national or national levels. Nutritional policies are often created as a response to a population health need and the Nigerian people need access to protein food sources to resolve issues of protein deficiency.”
She made reference to the impact that nutritional policies have had on global health citing, Nigeria in the ‘90s, combated iodine deficiency by increasing the public’s education on the benefits of iodine in the diet, improving knowledge of iodine deficiency and finally by the fortification of domestic table salts with iodine to increase the consumption of iodine in the home.
Also speaking, Medical Director of Pinecrest Specialist Hospital, Dr. Omadeli Boyo, revealed that Nigeria has assumed the status of a country with the second-highest rate of children with stunted growth for children under five adding that two million children in the country currently suffer from acute malnutrition with the government only able to reach two out of 10 for treatment.
He noted that the pandemic can be taken care of if the population is well-fed with nutritious food instead of the billion spent on combating it with drugs.
Another panelist, Dr. Beatrice Oganah-Ikujenyo, a seasoned nutritionist and teacher, stated that there are several barriers that can hinder effective implementation of a protein centred nutrition policy.
She said, “A dearth of nutrition professionals, a deficiency of nutrition courses in universities and a lack of government funding, can adversely affect nutrition policies.”
She added that nutrition in the nation has always been viewed as a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary issue, which has been combined with agriculture, health, science, commerce and industry, instead of as a stand-alone discipline or subject.
Dr. Oganah-Ikujenyo posited that, “the establishment of a Ministry of Food and Nutrition headed by a nutritionist that will make the implementation of nutrition policies easier.”
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