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UNICEF earmarks $10m to combat malnutrition

By Moses Emorinken, Abuja

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) will, this year, spend $10 million to procure ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF).

This is among the global agency’s efforts to combat disabilities and deaths resulting from acute malnutrition, especially among children across the country,

Describing the RUTF as lifesaving, the UNICEF said Nigeria, with 17 million malnourished children at any point and 2.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), is currently first in Africa and second in the world with the highest burden of malnourished children.

It called for increased local production of RUTF and micronutrient powders to augment the ones imported to the country by donors in order to make treatment available, accessible and affordable.

The UNICEF Chief of Nutrition in Nigeria, Nemat Hajeebhoy, said this during a virtual consultative meeting of the Minister of Health with local producers of nutrition commodities.

She said: “We must ensure that the resources allocated by the government to combat malnutrition are utilised. SAM is a major killer, and it puts a child 11 times more at the risk of dying of other diseases. If not treated, about 19 per cent of the 2.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition will die.

“Children with SAM can be treated with ready-to-use therapeutic foods. We also need to boost the local production of RUTF.

“UNICEF, in partnership with the government, is committed to scaling up the treatment of acute malnutrition. In Nigeria, from 2018, UNICEF has spent between $11 million to $21 million on RUTF. For 2021, UNICEF will spend $10 million on RUTF.”

Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that the Federal Government fully supported domestic production and would support any step to facilitate it.

“As much as the government wants to support domestic production, we also want to be sure that the producers meet the rules and standards set by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

“In response to the high prevalence of malnutrition, the Federal Government of Nigeria has introduced the community management of acute malnutrition which is focused on early identification of malnourished children, and the treatment of those with severe acute malnutrition using the highly efficacious evidence-based RUTF,” he said.

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