Numbers tell a story. If you can connect one story with another, you can make plausible inferences. Two reports released last week showed the power of these connections.
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics showed that the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2020 hit 33.3 per cent. This is an increase from the 27.1 per cent recorded in Q2, of the same year.
The Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020 released in the same week indicated that cost and household income levels remain the major deterrents to adequate protein intake in Nigeria. According to the report, 45 per cent of Nigerians do not consume protein daily.
Can you see the connection?
The unveiling of The Nigerian Protein Deficiency Report 2020 was the highlight of the Protein Challenge Webinar Series 8. Protein Challenge is the tag of The Nigeria Protein Awareness Campaign, 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.
The report was presented by Mr. Obaro Agalabri, Service Line Lead (West Africa) IPSOS Channel Performance. IPSOS is a leading market research company that carries out in-depth analyses of various issues, such as health statistics, population demographics, and other related fields. Others on the panel included Dr. Beatrice Oganah Ikujenyo (PhD), chief lecturer, Department of Home Economics, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Oto-Ijanikin, and Prof Adetunji Lawrence Kehinde, provost, College of Agriculture, Osun State University, Osun State, Nigeria.
The session was moderated by Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, co-founder and national chair of the Nigerian Chapter of Women in Global Health, a multi-national movement of women in health care devoted to global health improvement.
Here are my Top 10 Takeaways from the seminar session:
- The NBS has stated that less than half of the country’s work force is unemployed. This rate of unemployment is alarming with wide-ranging far-reaching effects. It means a reduction in the purchasing power of households leading to lower general food purchases. Yet, the lower socio-economic classes believe they eat sufficient protein. Information!
- A rise in unemployment results in low income, which causes poor diet. Nigeria has a gap in its protein consumption. The cost of protein in Nigeria is high and this restricts the consumption level (of protein). Cost and household income level are the main hindrances to adequate intake of protein in Nigeria. Income Gap!
- The poverty level in Nigeria is contributing largely to the protein deficiency problem. The majority of Nigerians use more than 68 per cent of their income in purchasing protein foods. This is, for many Nigerians, a heavy burden; one that many would seek to avoid. So, naturally, protein intake declines to unacceptable levels. Poverty!
- Protein deficiency in pregnant women could affect their unborn children. Pregnant women should ensure that they eat a balanced diet at all times. Nigeria has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world. Growth and nutritional value are the main concepts associated with proteins and soybeans. Children and women should be prioritized in protein consumption in households. Prioritize Children in Protein Consumption!
- Poor knowledge of food and protein leads to nutrient deficiency, poor diet and protein deficiency. We consume foods but we do not know the nutritional content of the food that we eat. To effectively tackle protein deficiency, we must eat right. Knowledge!
- National orientation agency should promote protein awareness to the general public. The majority of these organizations also carry out CSR in sensitizing the public on eating a balanced diet. Word of mouth is currently the major source of awareness on protein food sources. Create Awareness!
- The margin of people that are unemployed in Nigeria is on the rise. Agriculture can provide solutions here. It creates employment, empowers people and produces protein-rich food. Agriculture contributes to the nutrition status of any economy. The potential of the agricultural sector to alleviate protein deficiency is very high. Encourage Agriculture!
- Food consumption patterns in Nigeria lean too much towards carbohydrates. Every day more and more people turn to rice, fufu, bread, pasta, yams and noodles. Protein-rich foods like soybeans, beans, legumes need to be consumed more. The most commonly consumed soybeans derivates are Soy Milk, Soy Powder, Soy Oil and Fried Soybeans. The use of a healthy food plate is important in meal planning. Explore Protein Power!
- Though there have been some public-private sector interventions on soybeans, there is a need for more collective and collaborative efforts to drive more awareness. If affordability is a major limitation to the daily consumption of protein-rich meals, then soybeans should be a staple in households across Nigeria. Soybeans are a protein-rich food source. It needs to be consumed more across the country. Soypower!
- It is advisable to consume protein from natural sources rather than take protein pills for our protein intake. The medical background of the patient is very important. Proper dieting is essential for the patient. Medicine is the last resort after the diet fails. Eat Well. Get Protein!
Fun fact: Beans are the most consumed protein food by 81 per cent of Nigerians.
Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos.