By Bukar Bolori
The United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with the Government of Nigeria and other stakeholders, held a trade fair in Abuja to foster innovation and collaboration to address severe acute malnutrition.
Tagged “Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) and other Life-Saving Nutrition Commodities Expo”, the event provided a platform for government officials, the donor community, and RUTF manufacturers to discuss challenges, share experiences, network, and explore collaborative opportunities in expanding RUTF programmes.
It also allowed local manufacturers, investors, and other operators in the RUTF and other life-saving nutrition commodities value chains to showcase their products and innovations.
In Nigeria, severe acute malnutrition remains a significant public health concern, affecting 3.6 million children.
USAID in a statement on Wednesday said with persistent challenges related to food insecurity, limited access to quality healthcare, and inadequate nutrition interventions, the situation calls for robust multisectoral collaboration and innovation.
Expanding sustainable local access to affordable life-saving nutrition commodities is essential to address severe malnutrition in Nigerian children.
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 this 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.
Speaking at Wednesday’s event in Abuja, USAID Mission Director Dr. Anne Patterson said: “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. We hope that this trade fair provides 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 Interim Chief of Party for the USAID funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, John Rachkara, this Trade Fair is a game changer.
He said: “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.”