By Chika OnyesiThe United Nations Childrens Fund estimates that as many as 280,000 children under five years of age in Sokota and Zamfara are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Malnutrition is a life-threating condition, caused by lack or poor nutrition leading to poor childhood development, stunting and eventually death in children.
Given the malnutrition and low vaccination against common childhood illnesses in the Nigeria’s north-western states, children have remained more vulnerable to illnesses such as cholera, yellow fever and meningitis outbreaks, while malaria is endemic and measles is recurrent.
This is why the European Union is making the sum of N102m in humanitarian aid available to the most affected states. The funds will go to support the provision of life-saving treatment to undernourished children in of Sokoto and Zamfara, where violence and forced displacement are leading to a further deterioration of the situation.
“The EU is stepping up its humanitarian assistance in Nigeria to help in addressing without delay the child undernutrition emergency that the northwest region is facing. Our funding will contribute to deliver the much-needed treatment for children and improve access to basic health care. Timely help from the international community is essential to save children’s lives,” said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
With the help of UNICEF, the funds will provide malnourished children and their mothers’ immediate nutrition treatment; it will also facilitate the dispatch of mobile health teams to strengthen the capacity of health facilities in delivering comprehensive basic health care services, including supportive medical supervision.
Following the long history of insurgency, the Northwest region of the country has seen an increase in violence over the last few months; a development that has further deteriorated the already bad nutrition situation in the region.
‘‘With communities in the region already struggling with the seasonal depletion of food reserves in-between harvests, the current lack of access to their fields means that they are likely to miss the next harvest, thereby putting further pressure on already strained food resources’’
The UNICEF says medical facilities in the area are already working at maximum capacity to deal with cases of severe acute malnutrition while mortality rates have surged considering that people do not seek medical care on time as a result of fear.
The children’s charity also revealed that many facilities are no longer running and/or are no longer accessible due to increased insecurity.
The recent donation by the European Union is only a tip of the huge investment already made in humanitarian efforts in Nigeria.
According to records, the EU has since 2014, allocated almost €245 million to help needy people in Nigeria, in 2019, the EU provided €28 million for humanitarian aid to the internally displaced people and host communities in Nigeria, and of refugees in other countries affected by the Lake Chad Basin crisis, namely Chad (Lake region), Niger (Diffa region), and Cameroon (Far North region).