By Asmau Ahmad
Nigeria has begun the production of Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Foods to fight malnutrition, particularly in children.
Director, Family Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, disclosed this in Abuja where she noted that not too long ago; Nigeria was importing RUTF through UNICEF.
She was addressing a ministerial bi-weekly news conference on COVID-19 response and other developments in the health sector.
Dr Kolo said RUTF was critical in the treatment of children with severe and acute malnutrition, adding that Nigeria now exports RUTF.
RUTF is a life-saving essential supply item that treats severe malnutrition in Under-five children.
It is a paste made of powdered milk, peanut butter, vegetable oil, sugar, and a mix of vitamins and minerals.
“We are currently implementing an accelerated reduction of malnutrition in Nigeria, particularly in 12 states that have the highest burden of malnutrition in Nigeria,’’ Anas-Kolo said.
She added that nutritional disorders were common in Nigeria, a country that bears about 50 per cent of the burden in Africa.
She noted also that 50 per cent of deaths in Under-five children resulted from malnutrition.
“Nutrition and a balanced diet are very important for children. Mothers are encouraged to observe exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months in the lives of their babies.
“Thereafter, they can introduce complementary feeding using locally-available foods.
“For protein, they can use crayfish, dried fish, and other readily available sources,’’ she said.
Anas-Kolo also said that giving children a balanced diet contributes to physical development and brain development.
She added that to produce healthy, intelligent children that would make a meaningful contribution to the future of Nigeria, proper feeding must begin as soon as they are born.
She said also that the ministry was working with NAFDAC to ensure that fortified fats are avoided.
Fortified fats are hydrogenated to solidify them; they are harmful and can cause heart problems.
They are unhealthy fats mostly related to high cholesterol.
“Most business marketers, especially those in foods use trans-fat in bread baking, in cakes, and several other snacks.
“We encourage Nigerians to avoid trans-fat. The common one is margarine which is so common; it is trans-fat and we should avoid it as much as we can,” Anas-Kolo said.
She also warned against smoking, particularly the smoking of shisha which is more dangerous than the tobacco in cigarettes.
“There are higher incidents of lung cancer as a result of smoking shisha. We are using this opportunity to inform Nigerians to avoid the use of shisha,” she stressed.