MSF Wary Of Difficulties Ahead As Malnutrition Looms In Niger, Nigeria

With the nutritional crisis in Niger and Nigeria, MSF begins to expand health centres across states ahead of seasonal diseases.

Medecins Sans frontieres (MSF) – Doctors Without Borders, is mobilising to set up paediatric and nutritional care activities in nine health centres in districts of Guidan Roumdji and Aguie in the Maradi region of Niger to prevent malnutrition and address health complications in children.

MSF team is assisting to provide five additional health centres in Madarounfa district. With Joint efforts from the Nigerien Ministry of Health, they are expanding hospitalisation capacity to prevent childhood diseases and mobilise ready-to-use therapeutic food and antimalarial inputs to address the health crisis.

According to a recent assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the government, Katsina State, Northwest Nigeria has the largest number of food insecure people in the region.

In Nigeria, insecurity, especially from armed groups have contributed to the deterioration of living conditions for people in Katsina State, reducing their access to agriculture and basic services, forcing many to flee their homes.

More than 120,000 people are currently displaced in Katsina State, while the Maradi region of Niger is home to 77,000 refugees who have fled the ongoing violence in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states in northwest Nigeria.

With a 90 per cent increase in numbers of Nigerians being treated in health centres in Madarounfa, Niger, MSF team has mapped out the critical situation in Northwest, Nigeria.

“We see families from Nigeria towns turning to Nigerien health system to save their children from health complications, due to lack of available medical care and patients are extremely weakened before they arrive in Niger,”  said Issiaka Abdou, MSF’s West Africa Operations Manager.

Abdou noted that the number of malnourished children from Nigeria treated in Niger health centres since the beginning of 2021 by MSf team and the Nigerien ministry of health has increased by 34 per cent compared to figures of last year and children admitted in critical condition in Madarounfa hospital has increased by 46 per cent.

“This season has been difficult for young children as the food crisis and malaria transmission is exacerbated, the priority now is to be prepared,” he added.

MSF has decided to work with authorities in the close borders of Katsina State to address the medical needs and rapidly implement an emergency medico-nutritional response for communities threatened by the crisis.

However, with the way COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the nutritional crisis in these regions, the prices of food have increased above the food gap and funds allocated for nutrition and paediatric activities have depreciated.

For example, the budget allocated by ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid agency, to address malnutrition in Niger has fallen from over €24 million in 2015 to approximately €6 million in 2021.

“However, progress has been made in Niger to fight against malnutrition and child mortality,” Abdou said, “and it is essential that the State and its partners ensure that the health system has the means to cope with cases expected to be high this year”.

In Katsina, the prevention and management of malnutrition remains insufficient and more humanitarian actors are needed to deploy emergency medical-nutritional services in support of the health authorities in areas where medical staff can still work, he added.

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