“Babies and children suffer”: in Nigeria, the growing scourge of malnutrition

Several thousand children suffer from malnutrition in the northwestern part of the country, according to NGOs and health authorities. The situation is alarming in this extremely poor region.

We used to farm but we no longer have access to the country, like before, Abdulkareem insists as she hugs her malnourished 7-month-old grandson at a clinic supported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Rural areas in northwestern Nigeria are ravaged by criminal gangs, the “bandits”, who loot, attack, kill and kidnap villagers for ransom. They carry out their attacks from their camps located in the heart of the forests that cover a large part of the region.

feared violence

Hundreds of thousands of people have been thrown onto the roads fleeing the violence, while several thousand have been killed. The number of victims of these gangs now exceeds that of the conflict in the north-east of the country, born of the 13-year-old jihadist insurgency.

Most international aid organizations in Nigeria are in the northeast, where more than 2 million people have been displaced by the conflict, but very few have programs in the northwest.

And yet the recent deterioration of the security situation in the region is responsible for an increase in malnutrition. In five northwestern states, 44,500 children have already been hospitalized for malnutrition between January and June this year. In Katsina alone, aid organizations and health authorities are preparing to treat 100,000 children this year.

Across the city, hundreds of mothers come to clinics every day for help. In Kofar Sauri, for example, mothers share their children’s beds in dozens of tents set up in the hospital yard. The facility can treat up to 250 patients, but currently admits 350.

Many displaced

MSF says it wants to increase capacity to 500 beds in Katsina to deal with the outbreak of complicated cases. The number of people requiring hospitalization has already increased by 40% in the past week. Under crowded tents, children under the age of five are weighed, measured and diagnosed. They often suffer from other diseases, malaria or measles, according to medical staff.

We have measles, food shortages and with the bandits we have many displaced people. All this has serious consequences for children. insists Dr. Yakubu Abubakar, a pediatrician at an MSF clinic. ” And that’s just in one state. »

MSF says it tested 36,000 children under the age of five in Gummi in neighboring Zamfara state in June. More than half were malnourished and a quarter who were severely malnourished needed emergency treatment.

The plight of malnourished children in north-western Nigeria cannot continue to be overlooked Froukje Pelsma, MSF’s head of mission in Nigeria, said in a statement. Since the start of the year, 20,000 people have fled violence by “bandits” in three areas of Jibiya, a local official and residents said.

Food inflation reaches 20%

People are afraid of being kidnapped, killed or displaced ”, explains Nuhu Iliya, director of health for the local government in Jibiya. ” Parents struggle to find food, babies and children suffer “.

Northwest Nigeria is often plagued by food shortages, especially during the dry season when crop supplies run dry. In total, the region has eight million children suffering from malnutrition, according to UNICEF.

Added to this are the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted global grain supplies, and fuel prices have risen, causing food prices to skyrocket in many African countries.

In June, Nigeria recorded inflation of 18.6%, the highest in 5 years, and food inflation reached 20%.

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