North-east conflict pushes malnutrition to emergency level

There are high levels of severe malnutrition and dire conditions in areas that just opened up to humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF.

The organisation said about 250,000 children under five will suffer from severe acute malnutrition in some parts of Borno that are now accessible due to improving security.

“We estimate that there will be almost a quarter of a million children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno this year,” Jeam Gough, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, was quoted as saying in the statement.

“Unless we reach these children with treatment, one in five of them will die. We cannot allow that to happen.”

The organisations said the conditions in the newly accessible areas are devastating.

Munir Safieldin, UN humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, said relief assistance must be stepped up.

“While the Nigerian government and humanitarian organisations have stepped up relief assistance, the situation in these areas requires a much faster and wider response,” he said.

He said though there are new areas opening up, many localities in the state remain inaccessible due to violence and insecurity.

“More than half a million people require immediate food assistance. Most of those in need are either displaced by the conflict or members of the communities hosting the displaced,” Safieldin said.

UNICEF said violence in Borno has disrupted food production, markets, driven up basic commodity prices and deprived entire populations of livelihoods.

Many communities are said to be traversing the initial months of the lean season. At its peak in October, the number of those needing assistance is bound to rise.