The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said local production of nutrition commodities like Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) and micronutrient powder will improve the country’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) and tackle the burden of malnutrition.
Dr Ehanire stated this in Abuja during a consultative meeting with local producers of nutrition commodities organised by Future Assured in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other partners.
Malnutrition is a health condition resulting from eating diet that is lacking in nutrients, and RUTF is used in the treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children.
“The local production of RUTF will prevent stock outs and make them available and accessible at reasonable costs for the treatment of malnourished children. It will promote conservation of forex and growth of GDP,” the minister said.
He further said while therapeutic foods currently used in the treatment of malnutrition were included in the essential medicines list, they were procured from outside the country thereby affecting availability and accessibility due to increase in demand.
He added that the federal government was committed to production of nutritional commodities in the six geopolitical zones, as well as tackling all challenges to domestic production of nutrition products in the country.
The First Lady, Aisha Buhari, said Nigeria remained one of the highest contributors to the global malnutrition burden.
Represented by Dr Mohammad Kamal, National Coordinator of Future Assured, Aisha said full implementation of policies like the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition would help tackle the burden of malnutrition in the country.
She explained that, “Investing in RUTF and nutrition commodities with our local available resources is not only a business, but a contribution to our national development.”
The first lady had in 2019 convened an interactive session with the private sector and enjoined them to increase effort towards the local production of RUTF.
She said it was unacceptable for Nigeria as one of the highest contributors to Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the world to continue to rely on the importation of RUTF.
According to a 2017 UNICEF report, an estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under the age of five suffer from SAM every year, with nearly 420,000 children under five dying as a result of the condition.