By Royal Ibeh,
In a bid to tackle the protein deficiency problem in Nigeria, the federal government has been called upon to prioritize the availability and affordability of protein-rich foods in the country.
Data extracted from the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report indicated that protein deficiency problem in Nigeria has been on the rise, with about 51 per cent of the survey respondents not having access to protein-rich foods because of the high costs.
The report also highlighted the factors that influence the choice of meals in the home: availability of the food source, affordability of the food, taste of the food, knowledge of the nutritional value and personal choice or preference of the buyer.
Efforts to effectively tackle protein deficiency, according to a professional physician and an experienced public health expert, Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, must include household food improvement, enhanced protein availability, protein affordability and multi-sectoral planning.
Speaking on the nutritional requirements of the average individual, Adeniran stated that carbohydrates, proteins, healthy oils and minerals all have their place in healthy diet compositions, but proteins are nearly always neglected.
The public health expert explained that the need for a national protein nutrition policy arises from the urgent desire to target measured problems like child undernutrition, maternal and child health, infectious disease prevention, amongst other national indicators.
Adeniran said, in Nigeria, iodine deficiency was combated by increasing the public’s education of the benefits of iodine in the diet, improving the knowledge of iodine deficiency conditions and by the fortification of domestic table salt with iodine to increase the consumption of iodine in the home.
“In the same way, A nutritional policy could target the public’s access to information about a nutrition-related health condition. For example, the United States public-private collaboration campaign to influence the increase in public dairy consumption tagged, “got milk?” Nutrition policies have also targeted fortification of foods with minerals to increase the public’s consumption of such nutrients through eating foods rich in them. Many examples of these exist in global health,” she added.
She advised the government to urgently design and implement an effective nutritional protein policy, adding that public awareness and education about the benefits of protein should not be limited to school education and theory only.
“Re-learning and a lifelong familiarity about the benefits of protein to the home-maker should be taught consistently in public spaces like hospitals, primary health care centres, community centres and even in religious centres,” she added.
Adeniran posited that agriculture food production policies could also support farmers by way of fertilizer and farm-to-market transport subsidies. She said: “Government-initiated protein produce purchases will aid small- and large-scale farmers in various regions across the board and also encourage farmers to produce protein-rich plants for livestock feed and average consumers. The agricultural supply chains can be enhanced by import/export policies that prioritise protein-rich foods.”