No fewer than 280,000 pregnant women, caregivers and children under five will be supported with maternal nutrition counseling and acute malnutrition management services under a new funding package supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The new funding of SEK 26 million (US$ 2.7 million), to be implemented by UNICEF and partners, will also help improve access to safe water, sanitation systems and hygiene for 86,000 conflict-affected women and children in north-east Nigeria.
A press statement on Wednesday by UNICEF lamented that “13 years of armed conflict in north-east Nigeria has left women and children in acute vulnerability. Congestion in camps and settlements, high rates of open defecation and poor sanitation practices have put conflict-affected families and children at the risk of disease outbreaks and preventable deaths. Insecurity, loss of livelihood opportunities, high food prices and COVID-19 combined have put 4.1 million people in need of food assistance, drastically impacting the food and nutrition quality available for children in the region.”
It further decried that North-east Nigeria is currently experiencing its highest burden of acute malnutrition since 2016, with a 34 percent projected increase in the burden of acute malnutrition in the lean season of 2022, compared to 2021. Unless urgent actions are taken, at least 1.7 million under-five children in northeast Nigeria will need acute malnutrition treatment in 2022.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, is quoted in the statement to have said: “Malnutrition, the single most deadly threat to child survival and development is dealing children in north-east Nigeria a deadly hand.”
He added that: “Insecurity, global hike in food prices and ongoing humanitarian interventions targeting early detection at the household level are resulting in a record number of under-five children presenting symptoms of acute malnutrition and needing urgent life-saving services.
“UNICEF is grateful that the support from SIDA will not only help to scale treatment services to more children and address contributory water and sanitation services issues in camps and settlements but will also help increase investment in preventive nutrition services targeting pregnant women and lactating mothers with maternal nutrition services.”