Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) fears that the high number of malnourished children unfolding in Northwest Nigeria would soon become untenable without increased life-saving humanitarian support.
The international charity organisation warned that the international community has largely ignored the Northwest humanitarian crisis despite the region fueling the fastest-growing displacement crisis in the country.
A statement released on Thursday, July 7, signed by Michel-Olivier Lacharite, Head of MSF Emergency Operations, revealed that despite calls in recent months to both humanitarian organisations and authorities to scale up medical activities, “we have not seen the mobilisation needed to avert a devastating nutrition crisis.”
Since January, the MSF team working in partnership with Nigerian health authorities has already treated more than 50,000 children with acute malnutrition, including 7,000 who required hospital care in five Northwestern states.
The charity also said it is also getting ready to treat up to 100,000 malnourished children this year in its nutrition programme in Katsina State alone, and also expanding its response in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kano states.
It said the high number of malnourished children signifies that the hunger gap has begun “and the peak of malaria transmission which would further deteriorate the health and nutritional status of children is yet to come.”
“Acknowledging the acute needs of these children is long overdue, and we strongly urge making lifesaving support a priority now,” Lacharite said.
To tackle the worsening cases of child malnutrition and related ailment, MSF said it had to, in June, conduct a screening of more than 36,000 children under five years old, following a nutrition alert in the area of Gummi, Zamfara state.
From the result conducted, more than half the children were found to be malnourished.
In response MSF, in cooperation with the authorities, is launching an emergency response in the area.
Due to the surge in malnutrition cases in Katsina, MSF said it had to increase its inpatient capacity from 100 to nearly 280 beds in the last few weeks.
Sadly, the organisation had to introduce restricted admission criteria due to the unprecedented level of malnourished children in some of the treatment centres.
In Kebbi, MSF runs an in-patient and two out-patient facilities; about 1,500 malnourished children have been treated since March.
The statement explained that if the current humanitarian assistance lags far behind in Northwest Nigeria, that’s partly because the UN has failed to include the region in its humanitarian response plan.
Froukje Pelsma, MSF Head of Mission in Nigeria said the plight of malnourished children in northwest Nigeria cannot continue to be neglected.
“International donors and agencies, including UNICEF and the World Food Program, must increase their support to health facilities to provide communities with access to nutritional treatment, in collaboration with the Nigerian authorities who must contribute as well,” Pelsma said.
In recent years, terrorists have intensified attacks in the Northwestern region, farmers don’t have access to their farmland, cattle are stolen, and markets and trade are disrupted amidst soaring staple food prices.
In this chronically food-insecure region, escalating levels of violence have pushed many communities to their limits, including about 500,000 people forced to flee from home with no form of assistance.
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