Health experts and nutritionists have advised the government and individuals to take nutrition very seriously, while warning that malnutrition could be deadly.
These were parts of the recommendations made on Thursday September 10th, 2020 during The Protein Challenge Webinar Series 3.
Speaking on the theme: “Empowering Women To Break the Circle of malnutrition in Nigeria,” Professor of Human Nutrition & Diet at the Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), Abeokuta, Ogun State, Professor Ibiyemi Olayiwola said that malnutrition has become a pandemic that could affect anybody anytime.
Professor Olayiwola said in her keynote address that everybody should pay attention to nutrition.
The scholar spoke further on nutrition empowerment, education, information, food and nutrition for women and children.
“Malnutrition could lead to lots of sicknesses if care is not taken, and there’s no age limit that is exempted. We might have immunity for lots of things, but not for malnutrition.
“Furthermore, if our nutritional sector is bad, then there is exposure for under or over nutrition.
“In Nigeria, surveys conducted from various sections in the last 20 years have it that between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the zone, of women were under nourished.
“As a result, there is need to look into UNICEF’s contextual framework of malnutrition, which has given us underline immediate causes, and the immediate causes of malnutrition. Meanwhile, there are short and long term consequences,” she said.
Ibiyemi spoke about short term consequences of malnutrition and said that it could lead to lots of sicknesses, which she said was why one would see a child falling sick and would not know whether the child did not eat enough quality food, and that the child might not have enough protein.
The child, she said might not have eaten and that the child might not have taken rich protein that would supply other essential nutrients to the body, adding that, when one takes enough protein from a rich source, one would have amino acid and then the child is able to grow well without sickness.
She stressed that there are enough consequences in such, which she said could lead to lack of economic crisis, and pleaded with the nation’s leaders to pay lots of attention to nutrition so that women could properly be empowered, educated and understand the fact that without nutrition there can’t be any economic growth.
According to her, with nutrition the nation would increase, saying that we have to put money into proper use to educate, empower and inform our women, who she said are keys to breaking the cycle of malnutrition in the society.
The expert further submitted that the problem of malnutrition started from conception even when a woman didn’t know that she was pregnant.
Women, she said could break cycle of malnutrition by giving their new born babies exclusive breast feeding so that the child could grow up optimally.
“Whether in the village, in the kitchen, in the presidency, and all the women in the world, all hands must be on deck to eradicate malnutrition in the society,” she said.
Also speaking, another panelist at the webinar meeting, Dr Adepeju Adeniran, who’s a Clinical physician and public health expert, highlighted the roles of women in delivering domestic nutrition policies.
Adeniran said that social determinants of health of individuals are influenced by many factors, which she said are income, social status, employment, working conditions, education, literacy, childhood experiences, and physical environment.
Others, she said are social support, access to health information services, biologic and genetic endowment, gender culture or racism, and revealed that all these factors make up for who is considered to be a healthy individual.
Going to individual homes, she said that how educated and exposed the mother or care giver is, will determine what the health status or health outcome of that house will be.
“Meanwhile, immunization and vaccination, are very expensive, but they are very subsidized, which is the reason they have been able to reach all of us.
“So, why do we target protein within nutrition policy.
It’s essential for proper growth and development.
“There are some theories that say we do not prioritize protein in Africa in our diet, this is because we are farmers, we dwell so much on food that gives us energy and power, which is why we focus so much on carbohydrates, we were farming and fishing, those are energy consuming activities,” she said.
She revealed that some theories have it that many people in Africa did not reach their growth potential, and that if one takes a look at pictures taken about 100 or 50 years ago in the villages, he or she would discover that many people were short, while they relatively looked healthy, and that many of them didn’t reach their highest growth potential.
“Oftentimes, you would see that the skin of children are not necessarily very bright, we didn’t necessarily have very good eyes and very best of hair. This was because we thought African culture didn’t prioritize protein,” she said.
Dr. Adeniran reiterated that protein, and malnutrition exist in different age groups differently.
She stated there could be minor cases in children under 5 years of age, which she said could be increased propensity to infections, abnormality in skin or eye health and poor development e.g kwashiorkor, and it could range from mild to extreme.
“Apart from children, adults who don’t consume enough amount of protein would experience poor infections resistant.
“Another thing is that protein deficiency in children has also been linked to non communicable higher disease in adulthood.
“A link of the study that had been done, and it was discovered that children who don’t eat well, when they become adults they are more likely to have many of the non communicable diseases,” she said.
While linking malnutrition to COVID-19, she said that protein is the building blocks of the immune system, and that antigen and anti body relationship that occur in the body basically have their foundation in the amount of protein a person has in his body.
She stressed that a diet that has poor in essential protein intake would increase the risk of susceptible to many infections especially viral infections.
Another panelist, Mrs. Josephine Mensah Chukwunweike, a nutritionist and member, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, highlighted the practical ways to help women get out of malnutrition in Nigeria.
“In Africa, it could be under or over malnutrition. Here in Africa, under nutrition is still a very big issue, especially in Nigeria, although, among the adults and middle aged, over nutrition is beginning to raise its ugly head in overweight, diabetes and obesity in adult because of most of our diet is starchy food.
“However, to help the women get out of under nutrition, we need to know what women are actually feeding household with.
“A middle age woman who’s sexually active has to know the kind of diet she needs to take. If you are preparing to make a baby, if her folic acid, protein intake are not adequate among other foods and vegetables, she’s likely to have issues in the first three months of pregnancy.
“A woman who does not have adequate nutrition has an issue with proper gestational period.
“At a point of pregnancy, a woman should eat on doctor’s advice and nutritionist’s prescription. She should take adequate carbohydrates, protein, fat and oil. Therefore, every woman eating habit should be based on PMI, sex, age and gender,” she said.
About Protein Challenge
The monthly protein challenge is just one among numbers of dedicated platform for stakeholders to share ideas on nutrition, protein and health related issues.
The protein challenged is tagged, “the Nigeria Protein Awareness Campaign,” a protein pool media campaign that seeks to create awareness about prevalent, status and impact of protein deficiency in Nigeria.
The campaign is managed by Media Craft & Associate, a leading PR firm based in Lagos.