About 700,000 children in North-East, Nigeria likely to suffer acute malnutrition in 2023: UN Donates $20m to Address Food Security
The United Nations has sounded the alarm about the dire situation of children suffering from acute malnutrition in Nigeria’s North-East region. According to recent estimates from the UN, approximately 700,000 children under the age of five are at risk of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states in 2023. This figure is more than double the number of SAM cases reported in 2022 and four times the number recorded in 2021.
In response to this urgent crisis, the UN has allocated $20 million to scale up the emergency response in addressing the food security and nutrition challenges. The funds, sourced from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund (NHF), will support a coordinated multi-sectoral approach aimed at preventing further deterioration towards famine-like conditions.
The gravity of the situation necessitates immediate action and collaboration. Ann Weru, the spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria, announced the allocation of $9 million from the CERF and an additional $11 million from the NHF. These funds will be utilized to provide essential humanitarian assistance and prevent the worsening of the crisis.
The allocated CERF funding will primarily focus on food security interventions, including the provision of food and voucher assistance to 95,000 severely food-insecure individuals residing in three garrison towns of Borno State. Furthermore, $2 million will be directed towards the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition, ensuring access to ready-to-eat therapeutic food and nutrient-rich supplementary food produced locally. The Food and Agriculture Organization will receive $1 million to enhance agricultural livelihood support, such as seeds and tools, promoting the local production of nutritious foods and building resilience.
The NHF funding, amounting to $11 million, will be primarily allocated to improving access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as nutrition. This includes the reactivation, sustainability, and expansion of bed capacity at stabilization centers, along with scaling up outpatient therapeutic feeding programs. Healthcare services, such as the integrated management of childhood illnesses and complicated SAM cases, will also receive support. Additionally, protection services will focus on addressing gender-based violence, child protection, and mine action.
The UN’s intervention comes as the lean season approaches, which coincides with the peak of the rainy season in the region. During this period, the incidence of acute watery diarrhea, cholera, malaria, and other diseases increases, further exacerbating the vulnerability of malnourished children. Urgent and significant funding is crucial to prevent the projected high rates of acute malnutrition and potential loss of lives among vulnerable children in North-East Nigeria.
Matthias Schmale, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, emphasized the urgent need for funding from the government, donors, and the international community to protect the lives and future of children in the region. The allocated funds, although a crucial step, represent only a fraction of the required funding to address the crisis effectively.
The food security and nutrition crisis in North-East Nigeria is a result of years of protracted conflict and insecurity that have hindered agricultural activities and disrupted livelihoods. Humanitarian organizations previously appealed for $396 million in this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan to address the lean season food security and nutrition crisis. While the UN’s allocation provides an initial boost, additional support is urgently needed to tackle this pressing issue and save the lives of vulnerable children in the region.
In conclusion, the UN’s allocation of $20 million marks a significant step towards addressing the acute malnutrition crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of children in North-East Nigeria. However, sustained and increased funding and efforts from the government, donors, and the international community are necessary to effectively tackle the crisis, provide ongoing support, and ensure the long-term well-being of the affected children in the region.
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