By Francis Sardauna
Nutrition experts have appealed to the federal government to immediately return the N800 million budgetary allocation for Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) it removed from the 2020 budget.
They also lamented that malnutrition in Nigeria is basically caused by the federal government’s lack of specific budget for nutrition and strategic plan of action.
The nutrition experts stated this in a virtual conference Tuesday, convened by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, through her pet project, Aisha Buhari Foundation, in collaboration with the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH).
They lamented that the removal of the fund has led to zero allocation for nutrition and would hamper the war against malnutrition, saying the country has over the years depended largely on donors for nutrition funding.
One of the nutrition experts, Beatrice Eluaka, the Executive Secretary of Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), said Nigeria has the second highest number of stunted children in the world with two million children battling with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
She explained that only two out of every 10 children currently suffering from SAM are reached for treatment and with the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of malnutrition have risen in the country.
She said: “We call on government to return the N800 million RUTF allocation removed from the 2020 budget of the federation as Nigeria runs the risk of increased burden of malnutrition if government allows the emergency situation of Covid-19 to stop them from funding and implementing nutrition programmes and interventions in the country.”
Also speaking, the convener of the conference, Mrs Aisha Buhari, represented by the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, frowned on the spate of malnourished children in the country.
She said despite the efforts of the federal government to tackle the prevailing cases of malnutrition, the nation still has millions of children suffering and even dying from severe acute malnutrition.
“Nigeria has second largest number of stunted children in the world that may never be able to have an ultimately productive adult life,” she said.
However, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the federal government has expended a whooping sum of N1.8 billion in the last two years for the procurement of RUTF.
He restated that the RUTF was used for the treatment of children with SAM at over 200 sites of Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) across 26 states of the federation.
Meanwhile, the virtual nutrition conference is being anchored by the Chief Executive Officer of ISMPH, Dr. Moji Makajuonla, with the theme: “Harnessing Innovation Financing Options for Nutrition — unraveling the bottleneck”.
The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clement Agba; Dr. Sufia Askari of Children’s Investment Fund Foundation; senators, representative of civil society organisations among others dignitaries, in the joined the webinar.