By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
A federal government intervention team dispatched to Borno State over the outbreak of malnutrition in the camps of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has described the situation on ground as worse than reported.
Speaking at a joint press conference organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and Borno State Ministry of Health, Prof. Abdulsalami Nasidi, the National Coordinator/CEO of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control who is the leader of the team, said the assessment of the situation on ground showed that the case was worse than earlier reported.
He said something needed to be done urgently as the situation on ground showed that in the next couple of days, many people including children probably malnourished behind war lines with Boko Haram may be liberated and add up to the already crisis situation.
He said in the next three months, 750,000 and even more people needed to be touched and this had left the federal government and other stakeholders with no other option but to scale up intervention.
He lamented that the problem of malnutrition was more than the 250,000 figure reported by the media.
“It was agreed that the figures reported by the emergency team on ground could be representing just a tip of iceberg and something urgently need to be done to prevent further disaster and mitigate the impact of a dire situation.
“We want to also see how we can reach out to about 200,000 IDPs with severe cases of acute Malnutrition.
“One good news though, is the fact that all hands are on deck as the federal government has on ground in Borno State all that is needed for the intervention.
“In the light of the findings, the federal government is stepping in to support the ongoing effort of Borno State and partner agencies to effectively and efficiently address this response through effective coordination, collaboration and resource mobilisation.”
Speaking earlier, the Borno State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia, recalled that a high level emergency round table meeting on malnutrition crisis in Borno with Governor Kashim Shettima and Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole in attendance, with heads of all major partners and some NGOs had recognised the Health Humanitarian Crises in Borno and recommended the immediate need to reach out to about 750,000 persons including children, adult and pregnant women within the next three month.
Mshelia said there were about 22 satellite camps spread all over 8 local government areas of the state where the people from newly liberated communities troop in to stretch the provisions.
He said: “The recent upsurge in military operations had made it possible for a large previously trapped populations to be rescued and brought to safe places in IDP camps and host communities. The persons present with a wide variety of problems including health challenges, such as malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, measles, chronic diseases, trauma, and psycho-social conditions.
“These were persons who were out of reach to any form of service in the past, including health and other basic human needs for up to 5 years in some cases and are now contributing to the number of those in need of the emergency services.”
He said with the support of the federal government and other stakeholders, “the Borno State Government is on top on the situation.”
The malnutrition crisis was first brought to national and global attention by the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) which reported a large number of deaths in the Bama satellite IDP camp, at a ratio of six people per day, mainly from diarrhoea and malnutrition.
The MSF also stated that between 13 and 15 June, Nigerian authorities and a local NGO organised the evacuation of 1,192 people requiring medical care from the Bama area to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
The MSF equally reported that of the 466 children screened by its medical teams at Camp Nursing, 66 per cent were emaciated, and 39 per cent of these children had a severe form of malnutrition and upon assessment, 78 children had to be immediately hospitalised in the MSF feeding centre which has inpatient capacity of 86 beds.