The Federal Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to provide malnurished children in Nigeria with Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).
RUTF is an energy dense, micronutrient enhanced paste, used in therapeutic feeding.
The primary ingredients of RUTF include peanuts, oil, sugar, milk powder, vitamin and mineral supplements which provide all the nutrients required for recovery from malnutrition.
According to a press statement on Wednesday by the Federal Ministry of Health, the agreement is for counterpart contribution for the procurement and distribution of the commodity across the country.
There is an estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under the age of five who have severe acute malnutrition.
Records from the ministry indicate that about about 20 percent of these children would die if nothing is done about their cases. About 90 percent of the cases are in North-west and North-east Nigeria, the records further revealed.
Malnutrition is a major health challenge in Nigeria especially in about 12 northern states where 50 percent of children under age five are malnourished or stunted.
Malnutrition also accounts for more than 50 percent of under five deaths in Nigeria.
In a statement on Wednesday, Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said the Ministry had initiated the Community-based Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) in Gombe and Kebbi States as a pilot scheme.
Mr. Adewole said the programme had reached 10 other states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
He added that the programme is designed to cover the six geo-political zones in Nigeria.
According to Mr Adewole, more than one million cases of acute malnutrition in children had been treated with over 850,000 cured.
The minister said the CMAM Programme in Nigeria has largely been donor driven.
He said government was committed to scale up the treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) across the country and especially in northern Nigeria.
“Consequently, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) provided in the 2017 capital appropriation the sum of N1.2 Billion as contribution /Co-funding for UNICEF for the procurement of (RUTF)”, adding that “the sum of N600 Million has been released so far.”
The minister also commended the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and UNICEF for their financial and technical support to the CMAM programme.
In his remarks, the UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, Mohammed Fall, said SAM services have been mainstreamed into five percent (1,200) of health facilities in Nigeria.
He said it is operational in 15 percent of health facilities in the 12 northern states where the situation is most dire.
Mr Fall said Nigeria has the potential to do more by increasing its investments in nutrition and help to secure the health and well-being of mothers and children.
This, he said, would lead to better economic growth for the country.