By Gloria Essien
To avert the increasing rate of incidences of Severe Acute Malnutrion (SAM) among Nigerian children, the federal government says it has begun discussion with development partners and the private sector to begin the production of Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) in the country.
The Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this at a one day retreat by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), in Abuja.
Represented by the Director, PHC Systems Development, Dr. Oladimeji Olayinka, the NPHCDA Executive Director revealed that in partnership with the private sector and other development partners, it would reduce the cost of the RUTF, eliminate middle men and make it accessible and affordable to Nigerians.
“Government alongside our development partners have initiated discussions with the organized private sector on the need to start production of RUTF in Nigeria through a negotiated acquisition of the required technology for generic manufacturing. This will ensure a drastic reduction in the cost at which RUTF will be available and hopefully exclude middlemen from the whole distribution chain, making it possible to accommodate the cost within the NHIS gateway,” he said.
Dr. Faisal also noted that the Nigerian government is approaching the widespread malnutrition problems from a Multi sectoral angle by redirecting some poverty alleviation funds provided by the government and some of the development partners targeting rural communities and urban slums where moderate and severe malnutrition abound.
He advocated for a “rapid permanent resettlement program” for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in areas previously ravaged by insurgency in the north east which he said should be aggressively implemented by the ministry of works and housing while the ministry of Agriculture should rapidly clear and restore cultivatable lands in recently liberated areas.
He said there was need to provide arable crops seedlings for resettled internally displaced people.
The ED also appealed to thee organised private sector and philanthropic foundations and public spirited individuals to contribute to the efforts too.
“Continuous nutrition education in schools, in the various media and primary health care centers (providing designated sites for management of SAMs in every PHC clinic) will rapidly reduce the prevalence of malnutrition in our communities,” he said.
In her keynote address, the Executive Director, International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) Nrs. Moji Makanjuola, lamented the high rate of child malnutrition in the country despite the fact that Nigeria is not at war.
“As a country, we are not at war, but we have Nigeria presenting children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). I begin to wonder if we are war, may be we will be picking our children death from the street,” she said.
While blaming the state governments for not taking malnutrition seriously, she said: “The issue here is that a lot of the state governments don’t pay counterpart funding because the medication that the severely malnourished child need is not produced in Nigeria.”
“It is exported and that is a huge sums of money that should not have been used for acute severe malnutrition instead it should be used for other things that affect us that can generally help to reduce the morbidity and mortality of children and women.”
The Executive Director of International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), also charged state governors to take the issue of malnutrition serious by investing heavily in nutrition.
Mrs. Makajuola, appealed to the media to take up the challenge and ensure that they educate Nigerians about the dangers of child malnutrition.
“We have a role to play to change the mind set, particularly of our governors to know that they must, as a matter of urgency and an emergency, put funds to nutrition in Nigeria to make sure that we contain and stop, eliminate severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria.
Stakeholders working in the media and health sectors who were present at the event called for the inclusion of child nutrition as a major component of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF).
Similarly, the Senior Nutrition Officer of Save the Children, Seun Okediran said that improving child nutrition was essential healthy growth of children.
The nutrition officer said, “2019 marks Save the Children’s 100th anniversary and we can achieve this by tackling childhood pneumonia which is the biggest infectious disease killing children worldwide; and protecting children in conflict. Improving child nutrition is essential to meeting these commitments, since malnutrition increases a child’s risk of contracting and dying from diseases such as pneumonia.
She said Save the Children’s focus is on the first 1,000 days; from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday which is the timeframe that they call “ window opportunity” for good nutrition. making two commitments to accelerate progress.”
She said the organisation work with partners at global, regional, national, community and household levels to prevent and treat malnutrition by bringing multi-sectoral nutrition interventions to the most disadvantaged families.
In his presentation, Mr. Edosa Oviawe, a consultant to ISMPH, urged health journalists to increase advocacy on SAM in Nigeria to mobilise public support of investment in SAM prevention and treatment.
UNICEF has over the years supplied Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) for the treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria.
The workshop was themed; “Facilitating the inclusion of child nutrition as a major component in the BHCPF,”