By Ndidi Chukwu
Malnutrition is responsible for half of U-five year’s old deaths in Nigeria. The country has the second highest number of children dying before their fifth birthday. Experts in Abuja say over 1.7 million children in the country are malnourished and may die if treatment is not intensified.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which provides plumpy nuts at more than 642 outpatient sites for Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) has said Nigerian government will need to provide up to $2.7 million next year and $10 million by 2018 in counterpart funding to purchase and transport plumpy nuts.
So far, CMAM across 11 States in northern states where the need is considered greatest have admitted over 1 million children and 200,000 lives saved but recent surveys have shown more than two out of every three children with severe acute malnutrition do not get treatment.
UNICEF Chief of Nutrition Dr Arjan de Wagt said malnutrition is a silent crisis in Nigeria which requires continued financing to sustain and push CMAM to states where it doesn’t exist. Arjan however said this “needs Nigeria to commit its counterpart fund for nutrition, 325,000 lives could be saved this year alone if CMAM becomes nationwide and continued treatment could save an estimated 52,600 children by 2018”
The cost for ready therapeutic food (plumpy nuts) is another challenge because they are not produced in Nigeria and costs around $160 to purchase and transport the therapeutic food per child, Wagt said in a presentation during policy dialogue organised by the Civil Societies for Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) in Abuja.
In his response ministry of health permanent secretary Mr Linus Awute, however said “The issue of funding will always be a problem but prioritizing [needs] based on in-house capacity is always a way out.”
“For every programme implementation, it is preceded by an integrated plan,” Awute said in government’s defense.
“At the planning stage we will be able to know how this will be derived.” he said