Nigeria: MSF responds to extremely high child malnutrition in northwest as conflict escalates
Conflict both contributes to high levels of malnutrition and makes it more difficult to respond to it
GENEVA, Switzerland, November 19, 2021 / APO Group / –
The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched a new program to treat malnourished children in Katsina State, northwestern Nigeria, as conflict and insecurity increase in the region and that access to health care remains limited. Malnutrition is rampant in northern Nigeria, with cases generally decreasing in October, although this year MSF teams continue to see alarming levels.
MSF is working with the Nigerian Ministry of Health to manage a 62-bed Inpatient Therapeutic Treatment Center (ITFC) in Katsina City, as well as five Outpatient Therapeutic Treatment Centers (ATFC): one in Katsina City and the four others in Jibia. Local government area, near the border with Niger, where many Nigerian parents seek care for their malnourished children.
Since the launch of activities in Jibia in August, MSF has admitted 4,513 malnourished children, 78 percent of whom suffered from severe acute malnutrition. Since these centers were only open two days a week due to security concerns, these numbers are surprisingly high.
In Katsina town, from the start of activities on September 20 until the last week of October, MSF staff admitted 1,784 severely malnourished children to ATFC and 324 to ITFC. MSF is still admitting patients to its ITFC in Katsina City, showing that there are still malnourished children in need of treatment in an area where care options are very limited.
“During the summer, MSF conducted a nutritional survey in Katsina which revealed alarming levels of malnutrition,” said Dr Guyguy Manangama, deputy head of the MSF emergency unit. According to this survey, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition was 26.1 percent and that of severe acute malnutrition was 7.4 percent.
“The fact that we are not yet seeing the number of admissions drop to our centers makes us both worry about the gravity of the current situation and how it will evolve if the response is not stepped up,” Manangama said. .
People in the northwest of the country, including Katsina, are also currently experiencing a wave of violence, with kidnappings for ransom common and frequent clashes between various armed groups and Nigerian forces. Conflicts have also had an impact on agricultural activities as people are afraid to work in the fields, travel is more difficult and the cost of food has increased. People are also facing an economic crisis driven by several factors, including the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Conflict contributes both to high levels of malnutrition and makes it more difficult to respond to it,” said Dr Manangama. “The delivery of health care is increasingly complicated; medical personnel may be targets of kidnappings and fear attacks on medical centers. Insecurity also means that we cannot travel to all the regions where we would like to offer care. Insecurity is a real problem in the region, but international organizations must do more to help the Nigerian authorities deal with this very worrying malnutrition situation.
MSF teams in Nigeria are also carrying out nutrition activities in Zamfara State, with three ITFCs in Anka, Shinkafi and Zurmi local government areas, as well as 12 ATFCs spread across the state.