The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has just released SEK 10 million ($1,186,000 million) to UNICEF to help prevent and treat severe acute malnutrition in children in north-east Nigeria.
The contribution will boost interventions addressing wasting and fortify conflict-affected children in the region against COVID-19 and other opportunistic infections.
With 690,090 acutely malnourished children, the three north-east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe constitute the greatest burden of the 2.7 million acutely malnourished children in Nigeria.
Affected by armed conflict, displacement, limited access to farmland and high prices of food items, children, families and communities in the region already are among the most food insecure and malnourished in the world.
Measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have further created inequalities in access to nutritious food and supplements that children and mothers urgently need. Estimates from the Nutrition and Food Security Surveillance (NFSS) conducted in November 2020 put the acute malnutrition prevalence at 6.2 per cent in Adamawa, 10 per cent in Borno and 12.3 per cent in Yobe. NFSS estimates put severe acute malnutrition prevalence at 0.6 per cent in Adamawa, 0.9 per cent in Borno and 2.1 per cent in Yobe.
The result for many children is weaker immune systems, which puts them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and other infections. Even if children survive these infections, malnourished children generally have poorer outcomes in education and overall health.
Through the use of community mobilisers, the SIDA funding will allow for swift identification, referral and treatment of severe acute malnutrition cases in children in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
Frequent and increased micronutrient supplementation both at the community and referral centre levels will prevent and treat malnutrition in children, thereby providing them with a healthy start in life.