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Experts Explore Options To Curb Protein Deficiency In Nigeria

In the furtherance of efforts to curb the menace of protein deficiency in Nigeria, experts from different fields have proffered practical solutions to help Nigerians, starting with creating widespread awareness of the benefits of protein.

The professionals, from fields such as medicine to farming, nutrition and research, made these recommendations at the Protein Deficiency Awareness webinar themed ‘Nigeria Food Culture And The Challenge Of Protein Deficiency’ held on Thursday, June 11, 2020.

The Nigeria Protein Deficiency Awareness Campaign, tagged Protein Challenge, is a Protein Pull media campaign supported by the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and other partners, to create awareness about the prevalence, status and impact of protein deficiency in Nigeria.

Dr. Omadeli Boyo, Medical Director, Pinecrest Specialist Hospital and Public Health Expert, who delivered the keynote address at the webinar, noted that the socio-cultural dynamics of Nigeria affects meal choices across the country. Malnutrition, he revealed, is highly prevalent in Nigeria, despite the diversity in dietary options.

He said: “Most Nigerian staple foods have a large percent of carbohydrates. Nigerians therefore need to deliberately plan to eat a balanced diet. This however is not something that can be changed overnight because food is life. It must be a gradual process.”

Explaining how traditional and cultural thought processes are hindering the progression of healthy nutrition, he stated: “In some cultures, it is believed that if children are given eggs, they will grow up to become thieves, not knowing that children even need more protein-rich foods like eggs!”

Dr. Boyo insisted that stakeholders at all levels –  governments, parents, teachers, none governmental organisations and even religious bodies – must be involved, to understand that protein deficiency is real, and to encourage the search for cheaper sources of protein.  He advised that it is essential to not overcook plant protein food sources, as proteins are denatured by excessive heat.

Ezekiel Ibrahim, President, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), noted that the importance of chickens and poultry in Nigeria cannot be overstated, as chickens are a great source of protein. Chickens are one of the cheapest sources of animal proteins.

He explained that the cost of feeds is significant, and that soybeans is an important source of protein in poultry feeds. He lamented that the situation of insecurity across some northern states is hampering the production and subsequent availability of this essential protein source for the production of poultry feeds. This has the potential to lead to dire food insecurities.

Ibrahim insisted that agriculture is the cornerstone to proper nutrition, so the country must pay closer and more serious attention to it.

He revealed that some of the challenges poultry farmers face include: limited access to quality seeds, trial and error farm method, poor funding of agricultural research institutes, weak value chain and the dearth of reliable data and statistics for planning purposes.

Lanre Fasakin, Managing Director, CMRG, a leading research firm, remarked that the Nigeria Protein Deficiency Awareness Report indicates that availability (food that is around us) and affordability (what we can afford) are the major drivers of what we eat in Nigeria.

He called for concerted efforts to create widespread awareness of the negative impact of protein deficiency and to promote the benefits of protein.

The panel session was moderated by a Nutritionist, Linda Nwaodu.

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