By Abdulkareem Haruna
The United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) has announced that it has received $2.7 million in funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to provide maternal nutrition counselling and acute malnutrition management services to 280,000 pregnant women, caregivers and children.
The SIDA funded project which will be implemented by Unicef would also provide access for 86,000 conflict-affected women and children in north-east Nigeria to improve access to safe water, sanitation systems and hygiene in north-east Nigeria.
A statement from UNICEF indicated that the “thirteen years of armed conflict in north-east Nigeria has left women and children in acute vulnerability.”
UNICEF itemised “congestion in camps and settlements, high rates of open defecation and poor sanitation practices “have put conflict-affected families and children at the risk of disease outbreaks and preventable deaths.
UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins has noted that North-east Nigeria is currently experiencing its highest burden of acute malnutrition since 2016, with a 34 per cent projected increase in the burden of acute malnutrition in the lean season of 2022, compared to 2021.
“Unless urgent actions are taken, at least 1.7 million under five children in north-east Nigeria will need acute malnutrition treatment in 2022,” he said.
“Malnutrition, the single most deadly threat to child survival and development, is dealing children in north-east Nigeria a deadly hand,’’ said Hawkins.
“Insecurity, global hike in food prices and ongoing humanitarian interventions targeting early detection at the household level are resulting in a record number of under five children presenting symptoms of acute malnutrition and needing urgent life-saving services.
“UNICEF is grateful that the support from SIDA will not only help to scale treatment services to more children and address contributory water and sanitation services issues in camps and settlements, but will also help increase investment in preventive nutrition services targeting pregnant women and lactating mothers with maternal nutrition services,’’ said Peter Hawkins.