A non-governmental organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, has alerted the humanitarian community on the malnutrition crisis in North-West Nigeria, saying it is already at catastrophic levels.
The organisation called for the region to be included in the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan to enable a broader and more sustained response to the crisis.
It lamented that since the beginning of 2022, its programmes in five states across the North-West had witnessed an extraordinary number of children with malnutrition, blaming multiple factors for the sharp increase.
The MSF country representative in Nigeria, Dr Simba Tirima, in a statement on Tuesday, said, “With increasing insecurity, climate change and global inflation of food prices in a post-pandemic world, we can only imagine this crisis getting worse.
“The Nigerian authorities need support to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. This must include emergency humanitarian funding now for organisations able to respond and a commitment to include North-West Nigeria in the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023.”
The organisation revealed that since January, its teams working in collaboration with the Nigerian health authorities had treated close to 100,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in 34 outpatient facilities, and admitted about 17,000 children requiring hospital care in 10 inpatient centres in Kano, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi states.
The statement read in part, “In Zamfara State, which is one of the areas most affected by the ongoing violence and banditry, we recorded a 64 per cent increase in the numbers of severely malnourished children treated in the outpatient nutritional departments supported by MSF from January to August 2022 when compared to January to August 2021.
“MSF’s nutritional surveys have also underlined the severity of the crisis, including in areas less affected by violence and insecurity. In Mashi Local Government Area in Katsina State, MSF found a 27.4 per cent rate of global acute malnutrition and a 7.1 per cent rate of severe acute malnutrition in June, even though the community has been relatively spared from violence and forced displacement. These rates indicate a critical emergency.
“The UN current humanitarian response plan for Nigeria focuses on the critical situation in the country’s North-East region, excluding the North-West. Unlike MSF, which is not funded by the humanitarian response plan, many organisations are currently unable to respond to the acute needs in the North-West because they rely on it for funding.”
The MSF Head of Mission in Nigeria, Froukje Pelsma, was quoted as saying, “We understand that the UN, donors and other stakeholders are increasingly aware of the extent of the crisis in the North-West, but there is a need to go beyond discussions.