By Asmau Ahmad
Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), ‘Doctors Without Borders’ has called for urgent scale up of the humanitarian response in Borno in advance of the ‘hunger gap’ peak period.
This is contained in a statement issued in Maiduguri by MSF Field Communication Officer, Mr Abdulkareem Yakubu on Friday.
The Organisation said something urgently needs to be done in view of the unprecedented influx of malnourished children in MSF nutrition centre in Maiduguri.
“Since May, MSF. has been witnessing an unprecedented influx of malnourished children to our nutrition centre in Maiduguri, Nigeria, suggesting an alarming nutritional crisis in Borno state.
“We are therefore calling for an urgent scale up of the humanitarian response in Borno in advance of the ‘hunger gap’ peak period, which could be much more severe than previous years if current trends continue,” the statement noted.
Also, MSF Head of Mission in Nigeria, Shaukat Muttaqui, said that critical action needed to be taken now in advance to the seasonal malnutrition peak to avoid worse situation.
The MSF said that 2,140 malnourished children were admitted in the MSF inpatient therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC) indicating about 50 per cent more patients than from the same period last year.
“For six weeks in May and June, even though the peak hunger gap season had barely begun, more malnourished patients arrived than at any time since the project opened in 2017 – including at the very peak of the season in previous years.
“Up until May, our outpatient therapeutic feeding programme saw a 25 per cent increase in enrolments compared to last year.
“In response, our teams extended the existing ITFC capacity from 120 beds to 200 beds. Even with that emergency measure in place, for some days in June there were not enough beds for all the malnourished children being admitted.
“Other humanitarian organisations have also been operating at full or beyond their capacities. In some cases, organisations have had to reduce services due to a lack of funding – including the closure of 16 much-needed outpatient therapeutic feeding centres.
“As a result, and if current trends continue, services will be overwhelmed, and many more malnourished children will be at risk of dying,” the statement added.
It noted that what was needed urgently is an increase in hospital capacity for treatment of severely malnourished children that must also be met in parallel with a major scale up of interventions at the community level by expanding outpatient feeding programmes, food security, immunisation, and access to water and hygiene.
Malnutrition is a chronic and multi-faceted concern in Borno State, driven by the cumulative impact of displacement, insecurity, poverty, lack of access to healthcare and other factors.
It is historically most acute between late June and early September that is the period between planting of crops and harvest which experts call “the lean season.”