The Dangote Foundation on Thursday sealed a partnership worth $100m (N19.7billion) with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation towards ending malnutrition in Nigeria within the next five years.
The agreement was sealed in Abuja by the President Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote who signed on behalf of the Dangote Foundation while Mr. Bill Gates signed on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The agreement was witnessed by members of the international community as well as top officials of government such as the Ministers of Health, Education, Agriculture, Planning and Budgeting.
Speaking on the motivation behind the agreement, Dangote said despite its rapid economic growth, Nigeria was still ranked as the second country in the world with high rate of under nutrition.
He said more worrisome was the fact that the country was also rated as the second highest in terms of stunted growth owing to malnutrition.
He said currently, there were about 11 million children in Nigeria experiencing under nutrition with the North East and North West region accounting for the highest percentage of under nourished children.
He said owing to its vital role in child health, growth and cognitive development, better nutrition would be essential towards unlocking the potentials of the next generation of Nigeria.
He said, “Over the past few months, Dangote Foundation has gone through a strategy revision exercise and we arrived at a conclusion that the biggest challenge confronting us as we work at reducing childhood death is reducing the level of malnutrition in Nigeria.
“Globally, Nigeria has the second highest level of acute malnutrition rate at 13 per cent and at least five of all the children under the age trove years that died in Nigeria do so as a result of malnutrition.
“Stunting which is chronic malnutrition is the second highest in the world which is about 37 per cent.
“We have to ensure that children who are already malnourished receive help and are prevented from dying while we improve the conditions that led to them being malnourished in the first place.”
In his address, Gates said the agreement would enable the two foundations to begin a joint process that would strengthen the collaboration within the next five years.
He said programs that would be implemented under the pact would include community based approaches and proven interventions linked to behavioral change, fortification of staple foods with essential micronutrients and community management of a cure malnutrition investment in the local production of nutritious foods.
He said one of the key objective would be to improve the livelihoods o households by supporting nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs that can increase family income, improve diets and empower women and youth.
Gates said, “Nutrition is one of the highest impact investments we can make in Nigeria’s future growth and prosperity.