Nigeria: Growing Scourge of Malnutrition – Sciences et Avenir

Lariya Abdulkarim’s family grew sorghum and beans near their village in northwestern Nigeria before the threat of “bandits” forced them to leave their lands.

Feeding her family is becoming increasingly difficult as road insecurity in her Katsina state makes it difficult to deliver corn, millet and soybeans, laments Ms. Abdulkarim, 40, who is already a grandmother.

According to health authorities and non-governmental organizations, his family is among thousands of others whose children suffer from acute malnutrition in northwest Nigeria, where insecurity and rising food prices have worsened an already worrisome situation in this extremely poor region of Nigeria.

“We used to farm, but we can no longer access land like we used to,” insists Ms Abdulkarim, hugging her malnourished 7-month-old granddaughter at a clinic supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Rural areas in northwest Nigeria are being ravaged by criminal gangs, “bandits” who rob, attack, kill and kidnap villagers for ransom. They lead their attacks from their camps deep in the forests that cover most of the region.

Hundreds of thousands of people were thrown onto the roads to escape the violence, and thousands more were killed. The number of victims of these gangs now exceeds the number of victims of the conflict in the north-east of the country, generated by a 13-year-old jihadist insurgency.

– “Stalemate” –

Most international relief organizations in Nigeria are located in the northeast, where over 2 million people have been displaced by conflict, but very few have programs in the northwest.

Yet the recent worsening security situation in the region has led to a surge in malnutrition. In five northwestern states between January and June of this year, 44,500 children were already hospitalized due to malnutrition. In Katsina alone, aid agencies and health authorities are preparing to help 100,000 children this year.

Hundreds of mothers throughout the city turn to polyclinics for help every day.

In Kofar Sauri, for example, mothers share cribs in dozens of tents set up in the hospital yard. The facility can treat up to 250 patients, but currently admits 350 people.

MSF says it wants to increase capacity to 500 beds at Katsina to deal with the outbreak of complex cases. The number of people requiring hospitalization has already increased by 40% over the past week.

– Record inflation –

Under crowded tents, children under the age of five are weighed, measured and diagnosed. According to medical staff, they often suffer from other diseases, malaria or measles.

“We have measles, food shortages and bandits, we have a lot of internally displaced people. All of this has serious implications for children,” insists Dr. Yakubu Abubakar, pediatrician at MSF.

“And that’s just in one state.”

MSF reports that in June they tested 36,000 children under the age of five in Ghammi, in the neighboring state of Zamfara. More than half were malnourished, and a quarter, who were severely malnourished, needed emergency care.

“The plight of malnourished children in northwestern Nigeria cannot continue to be ignored,” said Frukje Pelsma, MSF’s head of mission in Nigeria.

Since the beginning of the year, 20,000 people have fled ‘bandit’ violence in three districts of Jibia, local authorities and residents said.

“People are afraid of being abducted, killed or displaced,” said Nuhu Ilia, director of health for the local government of Jibiya.

“Parents struggle to find enough food, babies and children suffer.”

The northwest of Nigeria often suffers from food shortages, especially during the dry season when crop supplies run out. According to UNICEF, there are eight million malnourished children in the region as a whole.

Added to this are the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted global grain supplies and fuel prices have risen, causing food prices to skyrocket in many African countries.

In June, Nigeria posted inflation of 18.6%, a 5-year high, with food inflation hitting 20%.

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