With over one million Nigerian children threatened with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Nigeria, a condition that has led to stunted growth among Nigerian children under the age of five, the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) is driving private sector players to manufacture Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) to address acute malnutrition in Nigeria.
RUTF, which has revolutionized the treatment of malnutrition, is a specialized product used for malnutrition intervention programs in target populations, including children 6 to 59 months of age with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
Nigeria spends millions of dollars annually to procure RUTF from Niger, Europe and the US as no indigenous firm currently manufactures this life saving commodity in-country, therefore, the securing of a license to manufacture RUTF by a home-grown pharmaceutical company, Tyonex from Nutriset, a major global RUTF manufacturer – a partnership that was facilitated by PHN – is a step in the right direction considering that current health indices reveal that malnutrition is an underlying cause of a significant proportion of under-five deaths in Nigeria, accounting for more than 50 percent of deaths of children in this age bracket.
Through more market-based approaches and engaging private sector companies across the value chain, the Alliance has engaged start-up companies to produce products to solve moderate malnutrition and pulled local resources to save 50, 000 SAM children in 11 Sahelian States, including Borno and Kano.
According to Dr. Umar-Sadiq, “RUTF cost is one of the limiting factors in addressing this problem. PHN decided to take on malnutrition through strategic partnerships, and impact investments. In conjunction with Dangote Foundation, Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Etisalat & Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Alliance has been able to treat at least 50,000 SAM in 11 Sahelian States.”
“We engaged private sector players including regulatory agencies by building capacity with the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to provide technical and operational guidelines on best practices needed to begin the manufacture of RUTF.
A July 2013 report by the Federal Ministry of Health reveals that 41 percent of Nigerian children under age five suffer stunted growth, a form of malnutrition for which children appear too short for their age. This makes Nigeria one of the six countries that account for half of all child deaths from malnutrition worldwide, with obvious profound implications for health and human development in the country.