Child hunger in Borno, Yobe horrifying —Report

Child hunger in northeastern Nigeria, has entered a horrifying threshold with the latest data showing a deepening crisis, humanitarian news agency, IRIN, has reported.

Levels of Global Acute Malnutrition recorded in July and August in Nigeria were well over the 15 percent threshold deemed “critical”, and, in some cases, higher than 50 percent, meaning more than half the children surveyed suffered from moderate or severe acute malnutrition.

In a special report on the “possibly deteriorating” situation in Borno and Yobe states, FEWS NET, a network set up by USAID to provide early warning on famine and food insecurity, said surveys and screenings indicated GAM rates “ranging from 20 to nearly 60 percent”.

“This level of acute malnutrition reflects an ‘Extreme Critical’ situation… and is associated with a significantly increased risk of child mortality,” it said. “Conditions may be even worse in areas that remain inaccessible.”

UNICEF helped to draw attention to the unfolding crisis in northeastern Nigeria in July, highlighting the fact that an estimated 244,000 children faced severe malnourishment in Borno State alone and warning that an estimated 49,000 – one in five – would die if they didn’t receive treatment.

Elizabeth Wright, head of communications for Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger), which conducted several of the nutrition surveys, said the situation – not in northeastern Nigeria alone, but also in Yemen, South Sudan, and Central African Republic – represented the worst humanitarian crisis and suffering since World War II.

“We are seeing a horrifying prevalence of malnutrition that far exceeds emergency thresholds, and people are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity,” she told IRIN by email.

The latest red flag from FEWS NET draws particular attention to places like Banki Town and Bama in Borno State, where the threat of Boko Haram violence continues to limit movement and prevent humanitarian access.

Wright according to IRIN said the information they had for outlying areas, like Gwoza, was incomplete.

“The humanitarian community does not have adequate, reliable, statistically representative data on nutrition status for many of the newly liberated and inaccessible areas of Borno.  Severe access constraints have prevented humanitarian actors from reaching populations in need,” she told IRIN.

“It is vital that humanitarian actors are able to conduct technically sound nutrition assessments in newly accessible areas of Borno to quantify the scale and severity of needs and to guide the most appropriate, effective humanitarian response.”