Recently, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), stated that in a new survey, Nigeria was rated as the country with the second highest malnutrition rate across the world. This information was divulged by the Director of the USAID Mission, Anne Patterson, at the Trade Fair for Ready-to-use Therapeutic Foods and Other Life-Saving Nutrition Commodities, which was held in Abuja. With reference to the 2021 Food Consumption and Micronutrients Survey, Patterson spoke on the severe acute malnutrition prevalent in Nigerian children, stating that it has experienced a 5 percent increase in the last five years — from 7 percent to 12 percent.
Out of all the children sick with this ailment, only 2.8 percent received treatment with ready-to-use therapeutic foods, also called RUTF, in the past one year. Local procurement of RUTF can be made with indigenous producers like Emzor-Foods, Nutri-K, Ariel Foods, and DABS. In Patterson’s statement, it was made known that these companies have shown that Nigeria is capable of producing these necessities at International standards. USAID has collaborated with the Nigerian government, its citizens, and various stakeholders in the country.
USAID began partnership with Emzor Foods and Beverages.
With this partnership, it aims at recognizing that the reduction of malnutrition is crucial to the improvement of health, economic development, and education. The United States Government is likewise interested in strengthening ties with companies in the private sector that are concerned with tackling this ailment. To prove this interest, USAID began partnership with Emzor Foods and Beverages last week, to develop a medical-grade groundnut paste processing facility. State governments have, therefore, been called upon to ensure commitment towards the sustenance of access to RUTF and other life-saving nutrition needs for citizens.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, Nebeolisa Anako, stated that malnutrition is a serious issue that requires collaborative efforts to be combated. Under representation by the National Convenor of the UN Food Systems Transformation Pathways for Nigeria, Faniran Sanjo asserted that the organization will ensure identification of necessary actions for the government at the local, state and federal levels for production of RUTF. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is also contributing its quota to prevent children from experiencing it.
States in northern Nigeria suffer the most from the ailment.
According to UNICEF, Nigeria has the second highest rate of stunted children across the globe. The national prevalence rate of the country is 32 percent of children below the age of 5. An estimate of 2 million children in the country suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only 2 out of 10 affected children are able to get proper treatment. 7 percent of older women, who are of childbearing age, also suffer from the ailment. Over the past 10 years, there have been no significant improvement in exclusive breastfeeding rates.
There have been no significant improvement because only 17 percent of babies are being breastfed exclusively during the first 6 months of their lives. Only 18 percent of children between age of 6-23 months are fed with the minimum acceptable diet. States in northern Nigeria suffer the most from the two forms of malnutrition; stunting and wasting. Stunting increases the risk of death, low educational performance, poor cognitive development, and low productivity in adulthood. All these lead to economic losses which amount to 11 percent of the countries Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Free micronutrient supplements are provided to pregnant women.
UNICEF works to ensure prevention of malnutrition by rendering assistance towards the education and counselling of caregivers and mothers on how to feed their children properly, and through the provision of free micronutrient supplements to pregnant women and children. The Fund is more focused on strengthening government systems, policies and accountability for sufficient nutrition financing. It also supports service delivery and humanitarian nutrition assistance in northern Nigeria. To enhance the ability of the government and partners to ensure coordination of the nutrition sector, UNICEF provides policy advice at the state and federal levels.