Nigeria: Strong Increase in Malnourished Children in Borno State

Our team in action at the Therapeutic Feeding Center in Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, has witnessed a large influx of malnourished children since May.

The fear is that one can evolve food crisis in this city that hosts many displaced people due to the armed conflict that has affected the state of Borno for years. C.We call for a rapid increase in humanitarian efforts in the area before the most severe period of food shortages comes, which could become much more severe than previous years if current trends continue.

It is important to act now, before the peak of seasonal malnutrition, to prevent the situation from getting worse. We are only in the beginning of the lean season and our facility is already crowded with more patients than the monthly arrivals in 2017 when we started operations. Past trends warn us that the worst is yet to come. If no urgent action is taken, the people of Maiduguri will suffer fatal consequences ”. Shaukat Muttaqi MSF Head of Mission in Nigeria

I am 2,140 malnourished children hospitalized this year in our therapeutic feeding center, about 50% more than in the same period in 2021. Between May and June, over a period of six weeks, despite the fact that the peak of the food shortage period had just begun, more malnourished patients arrived than at any other time since the project opened, even compared to previous peak periods.

Until May, our outpatient therapeutic feeding program saw one 25% increase in admissions compared to last year.

The capacity of the center has increased from 120 to 200 beds and despite this emergency measure, for some days in June, there were not enough beds for all the hospitalized children.

Other humanitarian organizations have also operated beyond their capabilities and in some cases have had to cut back on services due to lack of funds, which has closed 16 therapeutic feeding centers. If current trends continue, services will be overwhelmed and many more malnourished children are at risk of dying.

There is an urgent need to increase hospital capacity to treat severely malnourished children along with a significant strengthening of community-level interventions to avoid a potential worst-case scenario. This means expanding outpatient nutrition programs, food safety, vaccinations and access to water and sanitation ”. Shaukat Muttaqi MSF Head of Mission in Nigeria

In the state of Borno, Malnutrition is a chronic and complex concern, exacerbated by the effects of displacement, insecurity, poverty, lack of access to health care, combined with other destructive factors, especially for children. Historically, it is most acute between late June and early September in the lean season, which is the period between sowing and harvest.

Periodic epidemics, such as measles and cholera, as well as seasonal peaks of malaria, can further aggravate the situation. Last year, Nigeria was hit by an unusual cholera epidemic, with alarming immunization rates among children in the state of Borno, where access to health care is a daily challenge, especially for the displaced.

My children, if not at birth, have never been vaccinated. The 4-year-old gets sick every year during the rainy season. There are no free medical facilities in our area, so I take him to the pharmacy, where I also take the medicine ”. Hussaina Ali Father of an MSF patient

The cumulative effect of years of conflict and uncertainty continues to cause displacement, undermining people’s ability to grow food and access health care. Moreover, rising food prices it burdens the displaced. In our treatment center, the 32% of hospitalized malnourished childrenbelong to families of internally displaced persons who are dependent on humanitarian aid.

As the traditional climax of the lean season approaches, Borno is on the brink of a crisis that could endanger the lives of thousands of children. There is no time to lose. There is now a need for a rapid increase in the nutritional response, and humanitarian organizations need to be better prepared for the summit. Malnutrition must be tackled by increasing the medical response, but also by preventing health threats such as measles, cholera and other epidemics of infectious diseases at the same time ”. Dr. Htet Aung Kyi MSF Medical Coordinator in Nigeria

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