From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Harmonised data from various locations both government and partners have indicated that no fewer than 239 children have died of malnutrition in Borno State between January and July.
Deputy Director, Borno State Nutrition Officer, Abdullahi Alhaji Madi, who provided the data at a three days media dialogue on child malnutrition in Maiduguri, Borno State, said the situation is beginning to improve for good but the momentum needs to be sustained.
He indicated that between January 2017 and July 2021, 3,522 children died of malnutrition in the state, 849,148 children were admitted for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), and 737,826 were cured of the malnutrition within the five years period.
He expressed fear that the situation may be more devastating if urgent steps are not taken to avoid the worsening situation.
The data also indicated that in 2017, 216,639 children were admitted for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), 153,846 children cured of the ailment. Unfortunately, 731 children died of malnutrition, 22,547 defaulted in treatment while 4,165 children couldn’t recover from the ailment.
In 2018, the figure of children that suffered from SAM rose to 256,639, while 247,491 were cured, 654 died, 13,599 defaulted in treatment, and 3,552 children couldn’t recover from malnutrition.
Similarly, in 2019; 150,422 suffered SAM in Borno State. 138, 241 were cured, 1,877 couldn’t recover while 6,399 defaulted in treatment, and unfortunately, 544 children died.
In 2020, 140,349 SAM cases were reported, 130,855 got cured, 3,233 couldn’t recover, 5,922 defaulted and 1,354 children died of malnutrition.
In 2021, 85,027 children suffered SAM, 67,393 children were cured, 1,664 defaulted in treatment, 574 couldn’t recover. Unfortunately, 239 people died of malnutrition.
UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Ifeanyi Maduanusi, in his presentations, expressed hope that the malnutrition situation will improve if additional funding is provided by the state and other donor agencies for the intervention.
UNICEF Chief of Field in Maiduguri, Borno State, Samuel Sesay, told reporters that years of insurgency that led to the destruction of communities and displacement of people, as well as other factors, might have contributed to the devastating state of malnutrition in the northeast states.
He raised the alarm over the state of child malnutrition in the war-ravaged northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, stressing that the posterity of the region is under serious threat.
He disclosed that malnutrition has proven to be an underlying cause of nearly half of all deaths in under-five children globally and it is currently the biggest threat to child survival and development in North East Nigeria.
Sesay said the situation of malnutrition in the northeast has assumed an alarming situation, hence the amplified call for improved local and international interventions to salvage the posterity of North East Nigeria.
‘Households in the northeast are experiencing unprecedented levels of food crisis and hunger. Household food insecurity, poor infant and young child feeding and care practices, as well as poor feeding environment, hygiene, and health services have been identified as the underlying causes of malnutrition or undernutrition in children,’ he said.
‘In North East Nigeria, however, conflict, multiple displacements, destruction of sources of livelihood for households, destruction of basic infrastructure and services, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have been identified as peculiar contributors to the growing number of children affected by malnutrition or undernutrition.’
He stressed the importance of good nutrition on children’s development and its far-reaching impact on child education, health, adult earning power, individual and family finance, as well as the country’s economy.
‘Therefore, it is unacceptable that children continue to bear the greatest burden of conflict, climate change and COVID-19. Ensuring good nutrition in children helps families and is a cheaper route to nation-building.’
He reaffirmed the commitment of UNICEF to support government and non-government partners in the North East region on early detection, referral and management of severe acute malnutrition in children.
He promised a constant supply of ready-to-use therapeutic food in outpatient therapeutic feeding programmes; deployment of community nutrition mobilisers in communities and IDP camps and establishment of mother-to-mother support groups.
He also said they would continue to conduct cooking demonstrations in rural communities, supplementation of children with Vitamin A, deworming prophylaxis, fortification of children diets with multiple micronutrient powder, supplementation of pregnant and lactating women with Iron and Folic acid supplements to prevent malnutrition.
He added that UNICEF will continuously advocates and works together with the Government of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states for increased budgetary allocation and release of funds for nutrition, as well as a multi-sectoral approach to address malnutrition by combined efforts of line ministries, notably, health, water resources, agriculture, education, commerce, animal resources, women affairs and social welfare.
He reminded journalists being the watchdog of the society of their responsibilities to bring the attention of policymakers to the nutrition crisis in north-east Nigeria, assuring that nutrition and media facilitators are ready for critical engagement to promote the well-being of conflict-affected children in the region.