Some stakeholders in the Nigerian nutrition space have recommended the empowerment of women, as a major strategy to break the cycle of malnutrition in the country.
The experts made the call at a recent Protein Challenge webinar themed: “Empowering women to break the cycle of Malnutrition in Nigeria”, organised to discuss various ways to alleviate malnutrition in Nigeria, with particular emphasis on the role of women.
The keynote speaker at the session, Ibiyemi Olayiwola, Professor of Human Nutrition, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), stated that malnutrition is also a pandemic occurring globally, much like the COVID-19 pandemic, that adversely affects men, women and children.
She said: “Our leaders should give enough attention to nutrition because without nutrition, there cannot be economic growth.” She added that once a woman is educated and informed, she can make proper decisions about nutrition.
Professor Olayiwola called on the government to look into the affairs of women, as they play a vital role in meal planning and food choices. She insisted that women are critical to breaking the inter-generational cycle of growth failures by providing adequate nutrition for themselves, their families and their communities.
Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, a clinical and public health expert, stated that maternal literacy needs to be implemented at all levels, with nutritional policies targeted at women across communities.
She said: “Factors like maternal literacy, access to health information services and the level of income all contribute to the total health of individuals.
“We urge the Federal government to implement nutritional policies that are beneficial to women, who will, in turn, influence their households and communities.”
She revealed that figures from the Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report indicate that over 58 per cent of people are protein deficient, with rice as the most consumed food. She noted that a diet of carbohydrates alone would lead to protein deficiency.
On the food culture in Nigeria, Adeniran remarked that it is largely dictated by women, the majority of whom do not know that they are malnourished.
According to her, “Women are domestic implementers. Women are the key to the delivery of nutritional policies. It is not the best when the choices they make in getting their food items are driven mainly by bargain shopping.”
Mrs. Josephine Chukwunweike, a nutritionist and an entrepreneur, in her presentation said: “Mothers must engage in exclusive breastfeeding for the first 1000 days of their baby’s life.
“When infants start to eat solid foods, mothers need to add protein sources like soybeans, lentils, ground peas and other legumes to their starting diets.”
She added: “Proteins are excellent for growth and development. Proteins like soybeans increase the foliates and nutrients in the body. They are also good for pregnant and lactating mothers.”
Chukwunweike noted that where animal proteins are expensive, so it is advisable to go for plant proteins, as people do not need to break the bank to eat healthy and nutritious foods.
The event was moderated by Mrs. Lilian Ekong, a professional chef and nutrition enthusiast. She also supported the idea that women need to be empowered to mitigate the prevalence of malnutrition.
About Protein Challenge:
Protein Challenge is a media campaign designed to create awareness about the prevalence and dimensions of the challenge of Protein Deficiency in Nigeria, to galvanize all relevant stakeholders to collaborate in providing solutions to the problem, so that `Nigerians can live healthier and more productive lives. It is a protein pull media campaign supported by the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and other partners.