By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The European Union is allocating an additional €300 000 (N102m) in humanitarian aid to provide life-saving treatment to undernourished children in Nigeria’s northwestern states of Sokoto and Zamfara.
A statement issued yesterday by Oluwatosin Akingbulu, Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said those states experienced violence and forced displacement of people, leading to a further deterioration of the situation.
It said the funds will allow UNICEF to provide undernourished children and their mothers with immediate nutrition treatment.
To this end, the statement said mobile health teams will be sent out to strengthen the capacity of health facilities in delivering comprehensive basic health care services, including supportive medical supervision.
“The EU is stepping up its humanitarian assistance in Nigeria to help in addressing without delay the child undernutrition emergency that the northwest region is facing. Our funding will contribute to deliver the much-needed treatment for children and improve access to basic health care. Timely help from the international community is essential to save children’s lives,” said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
UNICEF also said that “as many as 280,000 children under five years of age across the states of Sokota and Zamfara are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which is a life-threating condition. Children are particularly vulnerable given the low vaccination rates against common childhood illnesses. In addition, both states regularly face cholera, yellow fever and meningitis outbreaks, while malaria is endemic and measles is recurrent.
“Northwest Nigeria has seen an increase in violence over the last months that has exacerbated the already existing dire nutrition situation. Recurrent clashes have driven people to flee their homes in search of safety. These people leave everything behind, including their fields and their main source of subsistence. With communities in the region already struggling with the seasonal depletion of food reserves in-between harvests, the current lack of access to their fields means that they are likely to miss the next harvest, thereby putting further pressure on already strained food resources.
“Medical facilities in the area are already working at maximum capacity to deal with cases of severe acute malnutrition. Mortality rates in such facilities are very high, as medical care is sought late, while many facilities are no longer running and/or are no longer accessible due to increased insecurity.
“The European Union is one of the leading contributors of humanitarian aid in Nigeria. Since 2014, the EU has allocated almost €245 million to help the people in need in the country, including €28 million in 2019. EU humanitarian aid funding provides immediate assistance to cover the basic needs of the most vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities in Nigeria, and of refugees in other countries affected by the Lake Chad Basin crisis, namely Chad (Lake region), Niger (Diffa region), and Cameroon (Far North region).”