By Juliet Oyoyo
UNICEF has warned that if care is not taken, Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) leading to deaths and irreparable damage in the Northeast is imminent in 2020.
This was revealed in a nutrition survey which estimates that about 258,950 under-five years of age children in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states are at risk of death from SAM in 2020.
Already, an estimated 371,000 children of the age bracket from these three states are suffering from SAM, with UNICEF-DFID, treating about 165,000 of these cases this year, using the Ready To Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).
“If not timely identified and treated, malnutrition has serious and permanent consequences in the growth and development of children.
One out of two child deaths under the age of five is attributed to malnutrition. Children suffering from SAM are four to 11 times more likely to die compared to their healthy counterparts,” UNICEF Nutrition Manager Maiduguri Field Manager, Sanjay Das, said during a media dialogue by UNICEF and the Child Rights Bureau Department, Federal Ministry of Information.
According to Das, “Children suffering from SAM are immune-compromised, and this increases their likelihood of suffering from a range of infections and disease complications.
It causes irreversible brain damage and compromised intellectual capacity in adulthood leading to reduced productivity and an estimated 16 per cent loss in growth domestic product.”
In order to prevent the 258,950 children from SAM damage and death, UNICEF Nutrition Field Officer, Borno, Aminu Usman said N5b is needed to procure 258,950 cartons of RUTF.
At the moment, he said UNICEF is the sole pipeline agency for RUTF for the collective response.
“So far, UNICEF has procured fund for 29,314 cartons of RUTF, leaving a funding gap of N4.4b for the procurement of 229,636 cartons of RUTF,” he said, emphasising the need for government at all levels and private sectors to assist with intervention funds.
“To support and curb malnutrition in all its form, UNICEF with funding from DFID is implementing two multi sectorial projects to promote positive nutrition outcomes in Northeast; the Flexible Integrated and Timely (FIT) project in Borno and working to improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINN) project in Yobe State.
The FIT project, which started in April 2019, will run till March 2020, with a budget of five million bounds.
Both projects entail provision of a basic package of nutrition services.”
The Nutition Specialist UNICEF Maiduguri field office, Abigael Nyukuri said, Through the FIT and WINNN project, UNICEF has been able to treat 165,000 children suffering from SAM using RUTF, provide micro-nutrient supplementation to 135,000 children aged six to 23 months and 550,000 pregnant and lactating women were given skilled Infant and Young Child Feeding during emergency counseling, to support maternal nutrition and optimum feeding practice for children aged below two years.