Malnutrition Doubled Among Children in Northern Nigeria – MSF

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has alarmed that malnutrition has doubled among children in northern Nigeria.

MSF Country Representative in Nigeria, Simba Tirima, revealed this in Abuja during the presentation of the MSF’s 2023 Activity and 2024 Q1 medical data. He said there is a severe surge in malnutrition among children in the North. 

He said “Children are dying. If immediate action is not taken, more lives hang in the balance. Everyone needs to step in to save lives and allow the children of northern Nigeria to grow free from malnutrition and its disastrous long-term if not fatal consequences.”

“We are alarmed by the reduction in aid at these critical times. Limiting nutritional support to only severely malnourished children is like waiting for a child to become gravely ill before providing care. We have been warning about the worsening malnutrition crisis for the last two years.” 

The MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, indicated a 100% increase in admissions in some areas compared to 2023. 

According to the aid organisation, in April 2024, its medical team in Maiduguri, admitted 1,250 severely malnourished children with complications to their inpatient therapeutic feeding centre, doubling the figure from April 2023. 

The facility had to urgently expand its capacity, accommodating 350 patients by the end of May, far exceeding the 200 beds initially designated for the peak malnutrition season in July and August.

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MSF-operated facilities in Bauchi state’s Kafin Madaki Hospital and Zamfara state’s Shinkafi and Zurmi have also recorded significant increases in admissions of severely malnourished children. In Kebbi state, the therapeutic feeding center documented a rise of over 20% in inpatient admissions from March to April. In major cities like Kano and Sokoto, MSF inpatient facilities reported alarming surges of 75% and 100%, respectively.

WikkiTimes reports that lack of funding threatens child nutrition in Bauchi after the state failed to release counterpart funding to supply nutitional supplement to the affected children.

Amount Required

In May, the United Nations and the Federal Government issued an urgent appeal for $306.4 million to address the nutritional needs in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states. 

However, Dr. Tirima argued that this amount will be insufficient, considering other parts of northern Nigeria where the need also exceeds the current capacity of organizations to respond adequately.

Other speakers at the event also urged donors and authorities to urgently increase support for both curative and preventive approaches, calling for immediate action to address the malnutrition crisis in northern Nigeria. They warn that if immediate action is not taken, more lives would be lost.

Devastating Consequences

In 2022, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) revealed that 100 children under the age of five die per hour from malnutrition in Nigeria. It amounts to approximately 2,400 child deaths daily.

This alarming statistic suggests that high food prices and widespread food insecurity are taking a devastating toll on infants and toddlers.

The not-for-profit organisation, in research, on malnutrition in Nigeria, reported that 6 million out of 17 million are children under five residing in the states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina, and Zamfara are food insecure. 

The situation worsened with the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe from 1.74 million in 2022 to 2 million in 2023.

Furthermore, UNICEF estimated that nearly 4.4 million children aged 0 to 59 months suffered from acute malnutrition between May 2023 and April 2024 in northwest and northeast Nigeria. This includes 1.04 million cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and 3.37 million cases of Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM).

Philomena Irene, Nutrition Specialist at the UNICEF Bauchi Field Office said $3.4 billion is required annually to support 350 million children and women worldwide until 2030.

Irene explained that the UNICEF’s Child Nutrition Fund (CNF) is transforming the approach to addressing child wasting and stunting. She explained that it also prevents children from acute malnutrition due to food poverty being essential for the procurement and distribution of nutritious food items to children in need.

According to her, CNF is a new financing mechanism designed to enhance global and national governance for the early prevention, detection, and treatment of child wasting.

Data from UNICEF show that as of September 2022, Bauchi State had 299,116 children aged 6-23 months. However, only 11,965 representing only 4% of these children had access to a Minimum Acceptable Diet (MAD), which includes foods from five or more food groups.

The remaining 287,151 children representing 96% of this age group in Bauchi were not receiving the required nutrition.

While Adamawa State had 176,474 children aged 6-23 months, with 20,824 (12%) children receiving MAD– suggesting that 155,650 (88%) were malnourished.

UNICEF also revealed that over 600,000 children under five years old in Jigawa State are stunted.

This is despite the state having contributed N250 million contributed for the procurement of Ready-to-Use-therapeutic-Food (RUTF) for the treatment of acute malnutrition through community-based programmes. 

WikkiTimes reports that there are 300 sites where demonstrations on complementary feeding made from homegrown foods are done once in a week across the state in an effort to reduce malnutrition among children.

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