By Asmau Ahmad
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) have inaugurated a programme to expedite life-saving responses, deliver essential nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene supplies to children in North-Eastern Nigeria.
The UNICEF made this known in a statement issued on Monday in Abuja.
According to it, the collaboration between the two agencies targets those living in crowded camps for displaced persons and conflict-stricken locations throughout the region.
“In addition, through the coordination of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRP), this action will seek to reach the most underserved communities in hard-to reach-locations, with a lifesaving integrated package of nutrition and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) assistance to address their immediate needs.
“With generous funding from ECHO, this life-changing initiative aims to uplift the lives of nearly 88,000 people including nearly 50,000 severely acute malnourished children.
It added that the programme’s main objective was to establish preventative measures and treatments to mitigate wasting, disease outbreaks and child protection risks.
This would in turn reduce mortality and morbidity amongst children already plagued by conflict and repeated displacements.
UNICEF stated that the longstanding conflict in the region continues to extract a grave toll on children’s wellbeing, as well as on pregnant and lactating women.
“The United Nations estimates that over eight million people require humanitarian aid, with roughly 2.2 million children under five and pregnant or lactating women suffering from wasting in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.
“Alarmingly, 60 per cent of children in these three states are impacted by wasting, with only 31 per cent of these children having access to treatment services.
“This year alone, UNICEF and partners project that over 700,000 children will require wasting treatments across North-East Nigeria.”
According to the statement, the innovative programme will extend the use of the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) approach, an easily applied method for assessing children’s malnutrition status, to a greater number of vulnerable infants and young children.
It added that it would empower mothers and caregivers to identify wasting in their children.
Slated to run for one year, the programme would prioritise supporting both nutrition and WASH sectors, enabling partner organisations to coordinate effectively and deliver vital supplies swiftly, particularly in crisis-prone locations.
Ms Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, said that children and women in North-East Nigeria need not continue being deprived of fundamental survival services.
“We must work relentlessly to eradicate wasting and prevent needless deaths among the country’s most disadvantaged individuals.
“We are profoundly grateful for ECHO’s support, which will enable us to reach the most vulnerable children.
“This means fewer deaths and more healthy children, it also ensures our clinics will consistently have essential medications and micronutrients to enhance child survival rates,” she said.