USAID and Nigerian businesswoman and philanthropist, Stella Okoli, have joined forces to tackle the critical issue of malnutrition in Nigeria.
In a groundbreaking collaboration, USAID and Emzor Food and Beverages Limited, owned by Okoli, have come together to establish a state-of-the-art processing facility for medical-grade groundnut paste, a vital component of life-saving ready-to-use therapeutic food used in the treatment of malnourished children.
Nigeria is currently grappling with severe acute malnutrition, which affects a staggering 3.6 million children, with the majority located in the northern states. Shockingly, malnutrition contributes to around 50 percent of deaths among Nigerian children under the age of five. RUTF, a highly nutritious paste made from groundnut paste, oil, sugar, milk powder, and vitamin and mineral supplements, is considered the gold standard treatment for SAM. When administered effectively, RUTF revitalises children affected by SAM by providing them with essential nutrients and pulling them back from the brink of mortality.
In the past, Nigeria has heavily relied on imported groundnut paste from Argentina and India, an expensive and unsustainable solution. However, with the USAID-Emzor collaboration, Nigeria is poised to revolutionise its approach to tackling malnutrition. The partnership will enable the country to produce locally-made RUTF, offering a more accessible and sustainable solution that simultaneously supports the livelihoods of Nigerian groundnut farmers.
Both Emzor and USAID have made significant contributions of $1 million each towards the establishment of a UNICEF-approved groundnut paste processing facility, the second of its kind on the African continent. This facility will play a crucial role in increasing the production and availability of RUTF in Nigeria, ensuring that more malnourished children have access to life-saving treatment.
Dr. Anne Patterson, USAID Mission Director, expressed her gratitude to Okoli, the Managing Director of Emzor, during the signing ceremony. She commended Okoli for championing this endeavour and for aligning forces with the U.S. government in the fight against malnutrition. This partnership between USAID and Emzor showcases the power of collaboration between the private sector and government agencies in addressing pressing social issues.
Dr. Patterson expressed his commitment to improving access, availability, and acceptability of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food in Nigeria, leading to better treatment for severe acute malnutrition. This initiative will not only benefit the healthcare system but also create new opportunities for local groundnut farmers, thus contributing to inclusive economic growth and boosting Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
Mr. Okoli emphasised the significance of private sector involvement in tackling Nigeria’s complex development challenges. He highlighted that the completion of the plant will enable the production of 400 kilograms of groundnut paste per hour, providing a localised solution to severe acute malnutrition within the country.
At 79 years old, Mr. Okoli founded Emzor Pharmaceuticals in 1984, which has established itself as a prominent pan-African manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies, world-class medicine, and surgical equipment. With over 140 high-quality pharmaceutical products and medical consumables in their portfolio—including analgesics, vitamins, haematinics, antimalarials, antitussives, antibiotics, anthelmintic medications, antihistamines, antacids, and cardio-protective drugs—Emzor Pharmaceuticals achieves annual revenues of $40 million while employing approximately 1,000 individuals.