70% of North-West Population Live Below Poverty Line, Says UN

70% of North-West Population Live Below Poverty Line, Says UN

•Laments spate of nutrition crisis in Katsina 

•MSF calls for inclusion region in United Nation’s humanitarian plan

Michael Olugbode in Abuja and Francis Sardauna in Katsina

The United Nations (UN) has lamented the spate of the nutrition crisis in the north-west region of Nigeria, saying 70 per cent of the region’s population live below the poverty line.

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Matthias Schmale, disclosed this in an audience with Governor Masari at the Government House.

Schmale, who said he was in Katsina to get a better understanding of the nutrition and food security situation of the state, described the nutrition crisis bedeviling children in the region as staggering and worrisome.

He explained that it was traumatising to see how children were suffering because they could not get the right or enough food to eat, saying the situation should be addressed in order to alleviate the plights of the victims.

He noted, however, that insecurity, poverty and lack of knowledge were the driving factors of the nutrition crisis afflicting children in Katsina and the north-west region in general.

Schmale expressed readiness of the UN and other development partners to work together with the north-west governors to address the prevailing cases of malnutrition among children in the region.

Schmale said: “What we saw in summary today (Monday) is a couple of things; one is that there is a nutrition crisis all over Nigeria, including Katsina.

“What I have been educated on today (Monday) is that the drivers of this crisis in your state are a mixture of three factors: one is insecurity and another one is poverty.

“I stand to hear some of your colleagues talk about 70 per cent of your population living below the poverty line. That is staggering and worrying. And Your Excellency, you talked about your concern for your people on many occasions, including how to end this.

“And thirdly, in some places it also seems to be about knowledge or lack of knowledge so education is part of it. I think for any person as a father myself, standing to see children suffering because they didn’t get the right food or not enough food is a traumatic sight. So, that is clearly a problem to be addressed.”

According to him, “So, if I had to talk to the humanitarian country team, I would say I have seen with my own eyes a crisis around nutrition in Katsina state. I have seen serious efforts by the government and humanitarian actors to tackle it but the response has to scale off.”

Responding, Masari said insecurity, poverty, cultural beliefs, lack of education and skills to acquire knowledge that would make citizens productive were the bane of severe and acute malnutrition bedeviling children in the state.

He said: “Another factor which we are ignoring is adult education is very important because the father knows the value of education before he invests in educating his child. All these that we are talking about centre on the issue of education. That is why we have this acute and severe malnutrition.”

He, however, said residents of the state should be educated and trained on how to produce local read-to-used therapeutic food (RUTF) at community level in order to tackle malnutrition among children in the state.

The governor said the state needs interventions in the areas of education and skill development in order to boost food production and eradicate poverty among its citizens.

MSF Calls for Inclusion of North West in UN’s Humanitarian Plan

Meanwhile, the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders has called for the inclusion of the north-west region in the UN Humanitarian Plan, insisting that this would enable a broader and more sustained response in the region which has been bedeviled by banditry.

The north-east, a region which has been under the shackles of Boko Haram insurgency for over a decade, is already on the UN’s humanitarian plan, making it to benefit yearly several millions of dollars in aids.

A statement by MSF yesterday read: “As the malnutrition crisis in northwest Nigeria continues at catastrophic levels, MSF is calling for the humanitarian community to respond to the emergency needs of people in the region, and for northwest Nigeria to be included in the UN’s humanitarian response plan, enabling a broader and more sustained response.”

The statement further read that: “Since the beginning of 2022, MSF teams have witnessed extraordinarily high numbers of children with malnutrition in MSF’s programmes located in five states across northwest Nigeria. Multiple factors have led to a sharp increase in malnutrition in the region over last year.”

The MSF country representative in Nigeria, Dr. Simba Tirima was quoted to have said: “With increasing insecurity, climate change and global inflation of food prices in a post-pandemic world, we can only imagine this crisis getting worse,” adding that: “The Nigerian authorities need support to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. This must include emergency humanitarian funding now for organisations able to respond and a commitment to include northwest Nigeria in the UN’s humanitarian response plan for 2023.”

He revealed that since January, the MSF teams working in collaboration with the Nigerian health authorities have treated close to 100,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in 34 outpatient facilities and admitted about 17,000 children requiring hospital care in 10 inpatient centres in Kano, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi states.

He noted that in Zamfara state, one of the areas most affected by ongoing violence and banditry, “we recorded a 64 percent increase in the numbers of severely malnourished children treated in the outpatient nutritional departments supported by MSF from January to August 2022 when compared to January to August 2021.”

According to the statement, the MSF’s nutritional surveys had also underlined the severity of the crisis, including in areas that are less affected by violence and insecurity.

In Mashi local government area, in Katsina state, MSF found a 27.4 per cent rate of global acute malnutrition and a 7.1 per cent rate of severe acute malnutrition in June, even though the community has been relatively spared from violence and forced displacement. These rates indicate a critical emergency.

The MSF head of mission in Nigeria, Froukje Pelsma said: “We understand the United Nations, donors and other stakeholders are increasingly aware of the extent of the crisis in the northwest, but there is a need to go beyond discussions.”

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