Paul Obiajunwo, PortHarcourt
The United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says over a hundred thousand families in conflict-hit northeast Nigeria have been reached so-far with food and nutrition support in a US$20 million (£16.1m) multi-year joint project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
UNICEF Chief Communication, Mrs. Doune Porter in a press statement yesterday said more than 4.4 million people are struggling in crisis and emergency food security levels in Borno and Yobe.
She said the two states were worst-hit by the Boko Haram conflict, adding that the World Food Programme (WFP) and Action Against Hunger (AAH) are working together to give families in the two states greater access to food and to protect children from malnutrition.
She noted that they are building a system not only to treat children for malnutrition, but to help families who have been devastated by the conflict to prevent their children from becoming malnourished in the future.
Porter said: “The three-year project is being carried out in collaboration with the primary health-care agencies of the Government of Nigeria and Borno and Yobe states. It is providing vitamin and mineral supplements for mothers and children.
“Funding for families with severely malnourished children to buy nutritious food, treatment for children with diarrhoea, and advice for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers on how they can provide the best possible nutrition for their children.
“With high levels of malnutrition even before the start of the Boko Haram conflict, the two most-affected states have seen food insecurity and malnutrition rates rise dramatically as a result of the fighting.
“In an already poor area, agriculture and markets have been disrupted by the fighting, which intensified towards the end of last year. The majority of food and seed stocks have been depleted, looted or destroyed.
“And many of the 1.8 million people who have fled their homes because of the conflict have had to leave behind what little stocks they had. Displacement has left many families with no means of earning a living.
“Although this is the harvest season, when more food would normally be available, an estimated 55,000 people in Borno state are living in famine-like conditions. That number is predicted to double by the middle of next year, making longer-term interventions such as the DFID-funded project all the more important.”
She also added that the project, which began in April and runs through March 2019, has already treated 30,000 children for severe acute malnutrition.
She said more than 100,000 pregnant women have received iron folate; 60,000 children have been treated for diarrhoea, which can cause malnutrition or make it worse.
“ 350,000 children have been given vitamin A supplements, boosting their immune systems and helping to protect them from illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and measles, which are frequently fatal in the area.”