Malnourished children in Borno State (Photo: Doctors Without Borders)
Malnourished children in Borno State (Photo: Doctors Without Borders)

UN agency, UNICEF has sounded a warning that about 134 children will die every day from causes linked with acute malnutrition if the response is not scaled up quickly. Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for western and central Africa who just returned from Borno State made that disclosure yesterday.

Reuters quoted him as saying that just under a quarter of a million (250,000) children in the state are suffering from life–threatening malnourishment. He also said the extent of the nutrition problems faced by the children had become clearer with increased access to more areas in northeast Nigeria to humanitarian assistance.

The UNICEF Regional Director also said that out of 244,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno this year, one in five will die if they do not receive treatment. The agency also says the number of children who are acutely malnourished in the state has risen sharply from 35,000 recorded in 2013 and 57000 in 2014. Fontaine disclosed that UNICEF was likely to increase its budget for Borno to $200million.

Medicines Sans Frontieres revealed last month that more that 1,200 internally displaced persons had died of starvation and illness in one of the IDP camps. The medical charity said then that about 24,000 IDPs were in severe health situation with an estimated 30 persons, mostly children, dying everyday.

Angered by the revelations, President Muhammadu Buhari sought explanations from relevant Nigerian officials on why displaced persons would starve to death inspite of the fact that the Federal Government, sympathetic individuals and non – government organizations had contributed billions of naira as well as relief material to ensure the well – being of the Boko Haram victims.

Following this, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole ordered the Director – General of the National Centre for Disease Control to dispatch “a rapid emergency team” to Borno State. Said the minister, “There is a nutritional emergency in Borno State where it is being reported that eight children stand the risk of dying every day if nothing is done to arrest the situation. There is need to dispatch an emergency team to Borno State.”

As it stands today, no one can be sure if the emergency team has fulfilled its mission. The revelations by UNICEF, apparently show that the threat of hunger, disease and death in the IDP camps is bigger than anyone ever imagined. The issue now is how the solution can meet the scope of the problem.