By Hassan Zaggi
The United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) has received a grant from the government of Japan to combat the worsening Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children in the north eastern part of Nigeria.
In a statement on Monday, UNICEF said that over 3 million children affected by conflict are expected to be screenedfor severe acute malnutrition using the grant announced by the Japanese government.
The new grant, according to the statement, will aid in the early detection and prompt treatment of children suffering from acute malnutrition and build a strong network of community nutrition responders who can ensure quick referrals of malnourished children to health facilities, where trained health workers will be able to help them.
At least 50,000 pregnant and lactating women and other caregivers will be trained to store and cook affordable food for themselves and their children. They will also be trained how to monitor their child’s nutritional status at home.
The statement quoted Chargé d’ Affaires a.i. at the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria, Mr. Shinozawa Takayuki, as saying that: “We are deeply concerned that children in north-east Nigeria are not only suffering the direct effects of conflict – but are also suffering from other life-threatening consequences like malnutrition. The children’s situation worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope that with these funds we can support UNICEF and Nigerian families and communities to ensure life-saving nutrition so that children can survive and thrive.”
The new funds will help UNICEF work with mothers and other caregivers to boost community-based food production and the detection, referral and monitoring of children with severe acute malnutrition in Borno and Yobe.
Children with severe acute malnutrition are at a significantly higher risk of death as compared to well-nourished children.
A recent survey found that malnutrition rates in children 6-59 months are as high as 10 per cent in Borno State and 12.3 per cent in Yobe State – well above the 5 per cent threshold globally recognised to be of public health significance.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant loss of livelihoods and food insecurity, thousands more children could be at risk of malnutrition-related death or stunting in the region this year.