Stakeholders in Nigeria’s nutrition and development space have called for an urgent review of Nigeria’s localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to alleviate malnutrition in the country. This was the focal point of discussion by experts who spoke at a recent Protein Challenge webinar, titled: “The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition: Connecting the Dots for Nigeria”.
The webinar was organized as a part of the Nigeria Protein Deficiency Awareness Campaign (Protein Challenge), which is a media campaign to create awareness about the challenge of protein deficiency in Nigeria, and to mobilise relevant stakeholders to collaborate in mitigating the problem.
A discussant, Foyinsola Oyebola, who is a social development expert with over 25 years of experience, noted that the review is necessary if Nigeria is to achieve any of the SDGs, specifically SDG 2, which is “to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition.” She stated that SDG 2 is critical to achieving all the SDGs.
According to Oyebola, “Nigeria is facing a nutrition crisis on multiple fronts, with rising levels of food insecurity. To ensure that no Nigerian is left behind, we have to bridge the gap between policy statements and implementation at all levels. We must petition the government to mainstream SDG 2 into state and local government programmes.”
Remmy Nweke, National Coordinator, Media Centre Against Child Malnutrition (MeCAM), a member of the Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), proposed increased budgetary lines in the health and agricultural sectors. He said that there was an urgent need to review the school feeding programme and to encourage smallholder farmers with better seedlings and other agricultural inputs.
He decried the persistent insecurity challenges in the country, noting that it negatively impacts access to nutritious food in many parts of Nigeria.
In his remarks, Collins Akanno, a nutrition consultant, entrepreneur and member of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), said that individuals need to begin to implement home gardening and good nutrition habits. He said: “Nigerians need to be properly educated on sustainable agricultural practices. Many people do not know that certain food crops around them are very healthy and nutritious. A lot of nutrition education needs to be done to create awareness on all platforms, from community outreaches to social media.”
According to Akanno, “There are local food options in Nigeria that are rich in essential nutrients. Soybeans, egusi (melon seeds), millet, groundnuts, and even pumpkin leaves are particularly highly nutritious.”
He explained that in an ideal health plate, the most food portion on the plate should be proteins and vegetables, followed by fruits and healthy carbs. He pointed out that soybeans are rich in proteins, dietary fibre, and micronutrients.
Akanno lamented the neglect of micronutrients, which has caused micronutrient deficiencies or “hidden hunger” in the country. Hidden hunger, or micronutrient deficiency, is the lack of vital nutrients in the body.
He also referred to the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report, a recent survey that examines the level of protein deficiency in Nigeria and sheds light on the food consumption pattern among Nigerians, and reiterated that the convergence of high cost and availability increased the prevalence of protein deficiency in the nation.
Akanno advised that nutrition education and sensitization, particularly among people in the rural areas, on malnutrition and its effects, would help to curb protein deficiency.
The webinar session was moderated by Martha Okpeke, a Development Enthusiast and Public Relations Practitioner.