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Médecins Sans Frontières expresses concern over high rate of malnourished children in northwest Nigeria


Médecins Sans Frontières Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Simba Tirima

By Anthony Maliki

The past few months have been incredibly difficult for the people of northwest Nigeria and our teams have seen unprecedented high numbers of malnourished children in the medical facilities where Médecins Sans Frontières work in partnership with the Ministry of health.

Médecins Sans Frontières Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Simba Tirima made the assertion in a statement.

He said “This year alone, we have treated more than 140,000 children for acute malnutrition in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Kano states.”

Besides he said in Zamfara State, the admissions of children with severe acute malnutrition to MSF ambulatory therapeutic feeding centres are 39 per cent higher than last year.

Amaka Joseph, 35, prepares therapeutic meal for her children at an ITFC facility at Specialist Hospital Sokoto, Nigeria on Friday 22 July 2022.
“When we began treatment, I started seeing improvement. Now they can eat well and play and this makes me happy” she said.
She would leave her children in the care of her mother when she goes to her shop, so she suspects that maybe the hygiene of the children has not been up to par.
“Now, I will take care of everything that has to do with these children, their food, their water and environment, I will make sure that everywhere is clean” says Amaka.
Rabi Auwali, 30, and her daughter Baraka, 10 months, during a consultation at an MSF-supported ambulatory therapeutic feeding center (ATFC), Maiyama Primary Health Center, Kebbi, Nigeria, 19 July 2022. Rabi lives in Andarai village, close to Maiyama.
She had noticed that her 10-month- old daughter Baraka was sick. She was having diarrhea, fever and was losing weight. She took her to a nearby hospital but there was no improvement.
Someone advised her to go to the MSF-supported ATFC at the Maiyama Primary Health Care Centre, where she has been coming regularly over the past weeks. “This is my 6th visit to this center”, she says.”I come here once week to collect plumpy nut for my baby. She’s doing much better now, and I did not have to pay.” Rabi has 9 children.
Her husband is a small-scale millet and maize farmer. But the farm does not provide enough to cater to the nutritional needs of the entire household. “Whenever I see a mother with a sick child, I advise them to come this facility, as they will take care of your child well and at no cost”, she says. “I am so happy to see my child get strong again.”

 Dr. Tirima stressed that in Katsina State, the figures have skyrocketed to almost 80,000 children treated for severe acute malnutrition while 12,700 of them required inpatient care.

“We see children dying on the way to our clinics. We see children whose medical condition is so severe that we can’t do anything to save them. Escalating violence, displacement, soaring food prices, epidemics and climate change are the factors triggering this alarming health and malnutrition crisis.  

“The scale of this crisis demands national and international mobilization for an adequate humanitarian response.  We call on other organisations to join in and support the authorities in meeting the most urgent needs of the affected communities. The northwest continues to be largely ignored in the overall UN-led humanitarian response and plans in Nigeria, which focus on the plight of the northeast of the country,” the Country Representative said.

“Ensuring greater access to lifesaving nutritional treatment for the thousands of people who need it now and during the next lean season is essential if we are to avoid 2023 becoming another devastating year for children in northwest Nigeria”,  says Dr. Tirima.

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