By Chioma Obinna
To treat the 258,950 boys and girls suffering from malnutrition as estimated by the Nutrition Sector in the three BAY states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has revealed that N4.4 billion is required to fill the funding gap for the procurement of 229, 636 cartons of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food, RUTF, for Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM, treatment, in 2020.
RUTF is a specialized foods product made purposely for the treatment of children suffering from malnutrition.
Disclosing this in Maiduguri during a Two– Day Media Dialogue organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, on “Integrated and Timely Response to Nutrition-Related Humanitarian Needs”, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Aminu Usman explained that although N5 billion was needed for the procurement of 258,950 cartons of the RUTF, required, funding has been secured for only 29,314 cartons.
Usman also expressed worry that the influx of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, may further exacerbate the already poor nutrition situations in the states.
He lamented that the affected community coping mechanisms were still low, and any shock will result in further deterioration of nutrition status and so, it is important to have a robust contingency plan.
Giving background of the situation in Nigeria, he said: “In 2019, an estimated 440,000 Boys and Girls under the age of 5 in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) states will suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), a high level of acute malnutrition- Prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among Boys and Girls aged below 5 Years is 11percent in Borno, 13 percent in Yobe and 6 percent in Adamawa.:
Continuing, he stated that insecurity has made the situation even worse in Rann (Kala Balge), South Yobe, Magumeri, Jere and Konduga LGAs.
Speaking on the consequences of malnutrition, Usman said it leads to irreversible brain damage and compromised intellectual capacity in adulthood, high risk of mortality, adding that severely malnourished children are 11 times likely to die compared to their normal peers.
”Malnutrition also causes up to 16 percent Gross Domestic Product Loss annually. Malnutrition causes nearly 50 per cent of all child deaths under the age of 5.
Also, an estimated 2.5 Million Boys and Girls under the age of 5 Suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM ) every year in Nigeria.”
On the response so far, Usman disclosed that under DFID Supported Nutrition Project, to detect emerging/deteriorating nutrition-related crises in Borno, UNICEF has secured ₤41 million for SAM treatment in Borno (₤36 million and Yobe (₤5 million) states.
On the 2019 overall Nutrition Response Progress in the BAY States, he explained that for new SAM cases admitted for treatment which is about 438,070, a total of 183,354 have been treated. While for children 6 to 23 months receiving, 149,687 have been treated.
Speaking, another UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Abigael Nukuri, who explained that UNICEF provides 100 percent of the overall Nutrition Response Needs for Ready to Use Therapeutic Food in the North East said investment in Nutrition will help reduce malnutrition trend in Nigeria.
She said mothers should eliminate poor feeding habits in children. “we need to educate our people on what constitutes a balanced diet. Malnutrition has dire consequences in the life of a child. It is a vicious circle, because a malnourished child has issues with development, a compromised immunity status, and impaired cognitive and intellectual capacities.
In his welcome address, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that Nigeria’s future depends on producing children who are well prepared to take their place in tomorrow’s society.
He, however, said efforts were been made by the government through policies and structures which aim at managing the situation in the country.
Represented by the Deputy Director and Head of Child Rights Information Bureau, Olumide Osanyinpeju, he noted that most, unfortunately, a large number of the children are at risk of deprivations of basic amenities, of which nutrition is inclusive; and especially in the Northern rural and hard-to-reach communities.