Wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, has given what can be described as a marching order to the National Institute of Pharmaceutical and Research Development (NIPRD), to, as a matter of urgency, work out modalities to stop the importation of Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF).
RUTF is used for the treatment of children with acute malnutrition.
She gave the order during a meeting with private investors and other critical stakeholders in the health sector in Abuja, recently.
The meeting was organized by the Aisha Buhari Foundation (ABF) and the Future Assured Programme.
The First Lady insisted that Nigerian companies must begin the production of the RUTF so that importation will stop.
“Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people; we cannot continue to depend on importing what we can source for locally. If Niger Republic can have a RUTF plan, I see no reason why Nigeria should not have it.
“Every Nigerian child should have a nutritious meal within the first 1,000 days of his or her life. We need the support and encouragement of the Federal Ministry of Health to make sure that our products are regulated right from within the country, and also to be guided on how to get it certified by the WHO.
“We cannot continue importing RUTF. Sometimes it takes about six weeks to get it shipped to Nigeria and needing a lot of agencies to clear it. Before all these are done, many lives would have been lost. I think that it is high time we become the typical giant of Africa,” she noted.
She reiterated that: “It is quite worrisome that after knowing the constituents of this wonder paste called the RUTF and importing it for about a decade now, we are yet to take ownership of this process by putting systems in place to ensure that it is always available and easily accessible”.
She, therefore, charged the private sector and stakeholders to focus more on the long term impact of investing on new RUTF plants or the improvement of existing RUTF production plants in the country.
Responding to questions from journalists, the Director General of NIPRD, Dr. Obi Adigwe, said that within the next few days, he will meet with the Minister of Health to chart a way forward.
He insisted that the private sector in Nigeria has the capacity to produce RUTF for use by children in the country.
“I just got the marching order, in the next few days, I meet with the Minister of Health to discuss how to go about it and from their I will convene an enlarge meeting with the private sector players.”