NIGERIA is facing a serious malnutrition problem in the northeast part of the country with as many as 233,000 children treated for acute malnutrition between October 2016 and May this year according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef).
Northeastern Nigeria has borne the brunt of the Boko Haram insurgency that has seen the terrorist sect wage an insurgency against the state since 2009. Borno State in particular has been brutally affected with at least 50 children diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition every day at various communities and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
After the 2016 malnutrition crisis in Bama where over 500 children under the age of five were treated for malnutrition, the Nigeria government and various humanitarian agencies deployed a lot of resources to ensure children in the camps are well fed. However, according to Unicef, the problem remains as at least 233,000 children have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition between October 2016 and May this year.
Already, the UK Department for Integrated Development (DFID), is believed to have contributed $10m towards the treatment of the malnourished children. However, the problem does not seem to have abated, with health officials at various medical facilities in the state saying the number of children treated only scratches the surface of the problem.
Yakaka Babagana, the provider of the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (C-MAM) programme in the Muna camp clinic, said: “We usually record new cases of malnutrition on daily basis here. The problem of malnutrition is big here, and on daily basis we record at least 8 to 10 cases on the average.
“We have two clinics here in Muna and all of them are located within the IDP camp even though we service even those living outside the camp. Presently, here in Clinic A, we have 174 cases of severe acute malnutrition that we are managing for the eight weeks administration of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) but while children that have regain their normal nutritional status are being discharged, we still record new cases.”
Zainab Ali-Goni, the C-MAM provider at Clinic B added: “We normally record between 30 to 40 new cases of children with severe acute malnutrition weekly in this clinic. We also notice the surge in the number of new cases and we later found out that we have more new arrivals of IDPs whose communities in Mafa, Gajigana and Magumeri have been attacks by insurgent recently.
Sanjay Das, a nutrition manager at the Unicef Maiduguri Field Office, admitted that there is still more work to be done in Borno State. Unicef said it has been able to secure additional £22m from DFID to cater for the increasing cases of malnourished children as the insurgency rages on.