Plans by the federal government and the World Bank to launch a $350 million programme to address malnutrition and stunting among 13 million children have reached advanced stage.
This much the Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole, disclosed yesterday, at the opening of a two-day Conference on Maternal/Child Nutrition in Nigeria organised by the Chike Okafor-led, House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services and UNICEF.
The minister who was represented by the Director of Family Health in the ministry, Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi, said N1.2 billion was set aside for procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) paste for treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the 2017 budget, but with little progress recorded overall, the federal government decided on scaling up services that will save the lives of millions of children.
According to available survey, about 11 million children are stunted in Nigeria. This is as UNICEF puts the number of children suffering Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) at 2.5 million.
Experts warn that if drastic action is not taken, one in five of these children will die.
“The Federal Ministry of Health is preparing a national nutrition project that would be financed with approximately $350 million from the World Bank to enable the implementation of the Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition” he said.
Pernille Ironside, who represented UNICEF at the summit, urged that government at the state and federal levels see the prevention and treatment of malnutrition among children, not only as a developmental intervention, but also as an investment that yields high interests.
“Investing in nutrition is not only a moral imperative, it is an important ingredient for economic growth. In Nigeria, every N1,000 invested, yields N16,000 in return”, she stressed.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara in his opening address said legislators at all levels must play a vital role in curbing the scourge of malnutrition.