4.4bn Funding Gap Threatens Malnutrition Intervention Efforts in Northeast

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By Chika Onyesi

An estimated 440,000 under five children in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States will be diagnosed of Severe Acute Malnutrition,(SAM) before the end of 2019, if urgent action is not taken to improve their nutrition situation.

Another 258,950 children may likely die from same causes in 2020 except the funding gap of 4.4 Billion Naira for the procurement of 229,636 cartons of RUTF is bridged.

This recent surge in the number of children threatened by malnourishment according to UNICEF is the result of increased poverty levels and the aftermath of emergency situations in the affected states.

Acute malnutrition is the deficiency of micronutrient in children under five years; an under-nutrition condition caused by a decrease in food and nutrient consumption. Acute malnutrition opens the door for childhood killer diseases, leads to stunting, wasting and subsequently death in children if not treated.

Malnutrition negatively affects children’s development; a malnourished child is eleven times likely to die than a well-nourished child according to experts.

Abigail Nyukuri, a Nutrition specialist at UNICEF says, malnutrition causes ‘‘fifty per cent of deaths of children under five, irreversible brain damage and compromised intellectual capacity”.

‘‘If a child is not properly fed from the moment of conception, that child will be disposed to malnutrition, micronutrients are essential for a child’s development’’ she says

A recent UNICEF data reveals that, Severe Acute Malnutrition is at 11% in Borno state, 13% in Yobe and 6% in Adamawa State, while an estimated 2.5million under five children remain at the risk of death from same causes across Nigeria.

Nutrition specialist working for UNICEF in Maiduguri, Aminu Usman, fears the situation is even worse in Rann (Kala Balge), South Yobe, Magumen, Jere and Konduga LGAs, as a result of prolonged access restrictions to food or healthcare and insecurity.

‘‘The poor nutrition situation is further exacerbated by poor food security situation, sub-optimal water and hygiene and sanitation practices and high disease burdens’’ he says

However, there are on-going collaborative efforts between UNICEF and the DFID to end child malnutrition in Nigeria.

The UK Department for International Development, DFID has invested the sum of 41million pounds on UNICEF’s implemented Multi-sectoral nutrition projects in the North East.

The Flexible integrated and timely project (FIT), being implemented in Borno state from April 2019 to March 2022 will receive 36, million pounds while the Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria project (WINNN) implemented in Yobe state will receive 5million pounds and run from April 2019 to March 2020.

Both projects will see to the detection and treatment of new and critical nutrition-related crises through surveillance and improve maternal and young child nutrition in Northern Nigeria.

Since implementation, the interventions has seen about 89% Children of 6-59 Months treated for Severe Acute Malnutrition in Borno state and another 74% of children in the same age range treated for SAM in Yobe state.

In Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, 69% new cases of children with SAM were admitted for treatment, 26% children 6 to 23 months have received Micro Nutrient Powder, while about 80% of care givers have received skilled Infant and Young Child Feeding support.

But despite these efforts, UNICEF says the influx of Internally Displaced Persons from terrorist sacked communities will continue to aggravate the already poor nutrition situation.

The children’s charity has revealed it still needs about 5 Billion Naira to procure about 258,950 cartons of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food for same estimated number of children who will suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition in 2020 considering the insurgent situation in the region.

‘‘While funding has been secured for the procurement of 29,314 cartons of RUTF, a funding gap of 4.4 Billion Naira for the procurement of 229,636 cartons of RUTF still exists’’ says Aminu Usman, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist.

‘‘The gap is very huge, very wide, we need to fill in this gap in order to save the children, otherwise we lose them, and it will not be good for the country to loose such number of children as a result of preventable causes ‘’ he says.

UNICEF says it bears about 70% of the burden of funding for its interventions but has received support from partners and sourced funds from other foreign donors to tackle the malnutrition situation in the North East.

The global charity remains solely responsible for the procurement of Ready To Use Therapeutic Food, for malnourished children.

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