Paul Obiajunwo, Port Harcourt
Almost 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year, as famine looms in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said yesterday.
In a statement yesterday which was signed by UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake said time is running out for more than a million children, adding that more lives can be saved.
He said severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made. “Our common humanity demands faster action. We must not repeat the tragedy of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa.”
He noted that in the northeast Nigeria, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition is expected to reach 450,000 this year in the conflict-affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobi.
He said late last year that famine likely occurred in some previously inaccessible areas of Borno states, stressing that that it is likely ongoing, and will continue, in other areas which remain beyond humanitarian reach.
Lake said: “In Somalia, drought conditions are threatening an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict. Almost half of the population or 6.2 million people are facing acute food insecurity, and in the need of humanitarian assistance.
“ Some 185,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, however, this figure is expected to rise to 270,000 in the next few months. In South Sudan, a country reeling from conflict, poverty and insecurity, over 270,000 children are severely malnourished.
“ Famine has just recently been declared in parts of Unity State in the northern central part of the country, where 20,000 children live. The total number of food insecure people across the country is expected to rise from 4.9 million to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.
“This year, UNICEF is working with partners to provide therapeutic treatment to 220,000 severely malnourished children in Nigeria. Over 200,000 severely malnourished children in South Sudan and more than 200,000 severely malnourished children in Somalia, and 320,000 children in Yemen.”