Experts under the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) advocacy consortium have called for increased and sustained efforts towards local production of the Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) and other nutrition commodities.
They made the call yesterday during the virtual dissemination event of the Advocacy for the Prevention and Treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) project.
Malnutrition is a health condition resulting from eating a diet that is lacking in nutrients. The Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) is used in the treatment of malnutrition in children.
According to a UNICEF report, an estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under the age of five suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) every year with nearly 420,000 under-fives dying as a result of this extremely dangerous condition. The experts said integration of nutrition projects or programmes across the country will yield better results, and also called for strong private sector participation including research into local food practices.
Dr. Emmanuel Sokpo of the Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), said some of the achievements recorded included the increase in the political will and funding for nutrition, significant improvement in the media coverage for nutrient deficiencies at the federal and state levels, and harmonization of health nutrition annual plans from development partners and those from the state governments.
He stated that the challenges include: lack of ownership of state and national nutrition plans, weak institutional capacity of the relevant ministries, departments and agencies; lack specific nutrition data and state-owned nutrition annual work plans, and the COVID-19 pandemic that limited the amount of physical engagement with stakeholders during the lockdown, amongst others.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said at least 50 per cent of malnutrition cases in Nigeria are due to ignorance in giving the wrong type of foods, adding that increased sensitisation of the populace is key to addressing the problem. He said the ministry is working towards home grown solutions such as the local production of RUTF.