Malnutrition cases worsening in Borno, says MSF

THE Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international medical organisation, has raised the alarm over rising cases of malnutrition in Borno State.  

In a statement mailed to The ICIR on Wednesday, April 26, the organisation said its facilities received more malnourished children since January 2023 than in previous times.

The alarm followed a similar outcry by the MSF in March, where it said that internally-displaced persons (IDPs) claimed the Nigerian government abandoned them.

On Wednesday, the organisation said the number of admissions of malnourished IDP children since the start of 2023 was the highest its teams in Borno State had recorded for the period preceding the annual ‘hunger gap’. 

MSF described the annual hunger gap as when food stocks from the previous harvest traditionally run out and malnutrition levels peak.

Poor funding has impeded the efforts to contain the problem, as MSF argued that only 16 per cent of the funds requested by the nutrition cluster was available. 

The organisation noted that a bigger crisis looms if tiers of government and other stakeholders do nothing to save the situation. 

“The team at MSF’s Nilefa Kiji therapeutic feeding centre in Maiduguri have seen a surge in admissions for both moderate and severe acute malnutrition. In January, around 75 children were admitted every week for severe malnutrition – around three times the average for the same period in the past five years. By early April, the weekly figure had risen to close to 150, twice that of the same time last year.”

MSF medical coordinator Htet Aung Kyihe said a massive increase in malnourished children called for malnutrition prevention and treatment activities to be scaled up immediately to avoid a catastrophe.

 According to Kyi, the current trajectory has been unprecedented since 2017, when MSF began interventions in the state.

 “The number of weekly admissions is two to three times higher than at the same period over the past five years – and it’s still rising. 

“Last year, we sounded the alarm in June when admissions skyrocketed at the start of the hunger gap, but this year, we are already seeing alarming numbers while we are still weeks away from the pre-harvest shortage period. The clock is ticking for action if we want to avoid a catastrophe,” added Kyi.



     The organisation explained that the number of patients it had treated for severe malnutrition exploded in 2022, with over 8,000 children hospitalised for intensive nutrition care. 

    MSF project coordinator in Maiduguri, Gabriele Santi, said food aid alone would not be enough to save the situation, adding that authorities and aid organisations needed to immediately ramp up malnutrition-related activities and increase bed capacity in intensive therapeutic feedings centres.

    “From early January to April 20 2023, 1,283 malnourished children were admitted for intensive hospital care at the MSF feeding centre – about 120 per cent more than from the same period last year.

    “Next to this nutrition emergency in Maiduguri, MSF teams are also responding to large-scale health and malnutrition crises elsewhere in northwest Nigeria, working in 32 outpatient therapeutic feeding centres and ten inpatient therapeutic feeding centres in Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states. Last year MSF treated 147,860 children with severe acute malnutrition across northwest Nigeria.”

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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