The United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with the government of Nigeria and other stakeholders, recently converged on Abuja to collaborate and foster innovative ways of addressing severe malnutrition.
Tagged ‘Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) and other Life-Saving Nutrition Commodities Expo’, the Abuja trade fair provided a platform for the government officials, donor agencies, and RUTF manufacturers to discuss challenges, share experiences, network, and explore collaborative opportunities in expanding RUTF programs.
The fair also allowed local manufacturers, investors, operators in the RUTF and other life-saving nutrition commodities value chains to showcase their products and innovations towards expanding sustainable local access to affordable life-saving nutrition commodities, essential to address severe malnutrition in Nigerian children.
“This trade fair provides a much-needed platform for local manufacturers, investors, and other operators in the RUTF and nutrition commodities value chain to display their products and innovations. In addition, participants will have a valuable opportunity to network and build connections with the Nigerian government, donors, implementing partners, and other stakeholders,” Anne Patterson, USAID, mission director stated.
According to Patterson, it is hoped that the trade fair will provide a platform to build meaningful relationships that will result in sustainable local access to affordable, lifesaving, nutrition commodities that help reduce severe malnutrition in Nigeria.
According to John Rachkara, interim chief of party for the USAID funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, the trade fair is a game changer. “Supporting local production of specialized nutritious products and facilitating linkages for local sourcing of raw materials will undoubtedly drive down the cost of RUTF production.
“If the costs come down, we can save more lives with the same amount of resources. With the partnerships formed during this trade fair, we expect to see a turning point in the fight against malnutrition in Nigeria, leading to a bright future where no child is left malnourished,” Rachkara stated.
In Nigeria, severe malnutrition remains a significant public health concern, affecting 3.6 million children according to UNICEF. With persistent challenges related to food insecurity, limited access to quality healthcare, and inadequate nutrition interventions, the situation calls for robust multi-sectoral collaboration and innovation.
The 2021 Food Consumption and Micronutrients Survey revealed that the prevalence of severe malnutrition in Nigerian children has increased from 7 to 12 percent over the last five years. Alarmingly, only 2.8 percent of these children received treatment with therapeutic foods due to inadequate access to RUTF.
One aspect of increasing access to the lifesaving treatment is being addressed through the local production and procurement of RUTF. Leading local producers, including Ariel Foods, Emzor Foods, Dabs, and Nutri-K, have demonstrated the capacity to sustainably supply these life-saving nutrition commodities.