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Nigeria’s Borno State in need of immediate humanitarian response to prevent deadly repercussions.

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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns that Maiduguri, Nigeria, is experiencing a nutritional emergency. Without an urgent boost in nutritional response, thousands of children’s lives could be in danger. Following the severe nutritional crisis in Borno State, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been observing an unusual surge of malnourished children in their nutrition center in Maiduguri, Nigeria, since May. An urgent expansion of the humanitarian effort in Borno is needed prior to the top of the “hunger gap,” which, if recent trends are any indication, could be even worse than in past years. Shaukat Muttaqi, MSF’s director of mission in Nigeria, emphasizes the importance of acting quickly in order to prevent a worsening of the situation as the seasonal malnutrition peak approaches.

Since the project’s opening in 2017, Muttaqi claims that even though the hunger gap season has just begun, the facility is already overflowing with more patients than it has ever seen on a monthly basis. The worst is yet to come, according to historical trends. This is a big flashing cautionary notice. People in Maiduguri may suffer fatal repercussions unless immediate action is taken to prepare for the approaching peak. 2,140 malnourished children have been admitted to MSF’s inpatient therapeutic feeding center (ITFC) so far this year, which is nearly 50% more than from the same period last year.

Even though the peak hunger gap season hadn’t even started, for six weeks in May and June, there were more malnutrition patients admitted than at any point since the project’s inception in 2017 – including at the absolute height of the season in previous years. In comparison to the previous year, enrollment in the outpatient therapeutic eating program increased by 25% through the month of May. MSF workers increased the ITFC’s capacity from 120 to 200 beds in response. Even with that emergency precaution in place, there weren’t enough beds for all the malnourished kids being admitted on some days in June.

Additionally, several humanitarian organizations have been operating at or above capacity. Lack of financing has forced several organizations to cut back on services, including the closure of 16 urgently needed outpatient therapeutic feeding facilities. Services will be overburdened as a result, and many more malnourished children will be in danger of dying if current trends continue. The most pressing requirement, according to Muttaqi, is to improve hospital capacity to treat extremely malnourished children. However, this must be done concurrently with a significant expansion of community-level interventions to prepare for the worst-case situation. The expansion of outpatient feeding programs, food security, immunization, and access to clean water and cleanliness are among the necessary measures.

In Borno State, malnutrition is a persistent problem with several facets that is fueled by a confluence of causes including poverty, lack of access to healthcare, instability, and relocation. Historically, it has been most severe between late June and early September, known as the “lean season,” which is the time between planting and harvest. Children suffer terrible consequences as a result of the additional stressors of low immunization rates, a lack of access to clean water, cleanliness, and healthcare, and persistent food insecurity. Periodic illness outbreaks, particularly those involving measles and cholera, as well as periodic malaria peaks, might make matters worse. The cholera outbreak in Nigeria last year was extremely widespread, and the immunization rates for youngsters in Borno State are disturbingly low. People frequently struggle to get access to healthcare, especially those who are displaced.

Aside from their immunization at birth, Hussaina Ali’s children never had any vaccinations. Every year when it rains, her four-year-old kid becomes sick. Hussaina Ali, whose youngest kid is now also malnourished and receiving treatment at the ITFC, says there is no free medical facility in her neighborhood, so she just takes him to the pharmacy and gets medicine there. Long-term displacement is a result of the cumulative effects of years of conflict and insecurity, which makes it more difficult for individuals to receive healthcare and engage in food production. As a result, those who have been displaced are being hit particularly hard by increased food prices. 32% of the malnourished children admitted to the MSF ITFC come from internally displaced families, who depend heavily on humanitarian aid.

Dr. Htet Aung Kyi, the MSF medical coordinator in Nigeria, warns that as the customary peak of the lean season approaches, Borno is on the verge of a crisis that might endanger the lives of thousands of children. There is no time to waste. The nutritional response must be scaled up immediately, and humanitarian organizations must be significantly better equipped for the peak, according to Kyi. This entails addressing malnutrition by stepping up medical assistance while concurrently halting health hazards including cholera, measles, and other infectious disease epidemics.


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