Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

‎The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has so far reached hundreds of families in the North-east with the sum of $20 million in order to tackle malnutrition.

Also, more than 4.4 million people struggling in crisis and emergency food security levels in Borno and Yobe – the two states worst-hit by the Boko Haram conflict have also benefitted from UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and Action Against Hunger (AAH) which have been working together to give families in the two states greater access to food and to protect children from malnutrition.

Mohammed Fall, UNICEF representative in Nigeria revealed this, stating that the organisations are building a system not only to treat children for malnutrition, but to help families who have been devastated by the conflict to prevent their children from becoming malnourished in the future.

In the same vein, the three-year project which has soon commenced is being carried out in collaboration with the primary healthcare agencies of the governments of Nigeria, Borno and Yobe states. It is providing vitamin and mineral supplements for mothers and children, funding for families with severely malnourished children to buy nutritious food, treatment for children with diarrhoea, and advice for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers on how they can provide the best possible nutrition for their children.

“With high levels of malnutrition even before the start of the Boko Haram conflict, the two most-affected states have seen food insecurity and malnutrition rates rise dramatically as a result of the fighting. In an already poor area, agriculture and markets have been disrupted by the fighting, which intensified towards the end of last year. The majority of food and seed stocks have been depleted, looted or destroyed, and many of the 1.8 million people who have fled their homes because of the conflict have had to leave behind what little stocks they had. Displacement has left many families with no means of earning a living.

“Although this is the harvest season, when more food would normally be available, an estimated 55,000 people in Borno State are living in famine-like conditions. That number is predicted to double by the middle of next year, making longer-term interventions such as the DFID-funded project all the more important.

An additional part of the project is a system of providing funds directly to families with the lowest incomes to enable them to buy nutritious food to prevent relapse after children have been treated for malnutrition. So far, more than 7,000 families have received this cash assistance.

Working with Nigerian government authorities, UNICEF is administering the nutrition aspects of the programme in Borno State, which has the heaviest burden of malnutrition, while WFP is managing the cash transfers and AAH is managing both aspects of the project in Yobe State.