Bauchi, other Northern states record increase in severely malnurished children this year – says MSF

By Samuel Luka

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed in a press statement on Tuesday that Bauchi and other states of the Northern Nigeria have recorded increase in severely malnourished children.

According to the MSF, Bauchi state recorded a significant 188 per cent increase in admissions of severely malnourished children during the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

A press statement made available to newsmen by Dr Simba Tirima, MSF’s Country Representative in Nigeria said the number was recorded in the MSF-operated facility in Bauchi state’s Kafin Madaki hospital.

As circulated to newsmen by the Field Communication Manager of the MSF, Georg Gassauer, the statement explained that severely malnurished children have been recorded in its inpatients facilities in Northern Nigeria with life-threatening complications.

The statement further noted that the number exceeded last year’s figures by over 100 per cent in some locations, describing the situation as an alarming indication of a premature peak of the lean season and the increase in acute malnutrition that accompanies it, typically anticipated in July.

It stated that, in April 2024, MSF’s medical team in Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria admitted 1,250 severely malnourished children with complications to the in-patient therapeutic feeding centre, doubling the figure for April 2023.

He said by the end of May the centre accommodated 350 patients, far surpassing the 200 beds initially designated for the peak malnutrition season in July and August.

MSF’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Tirima said in the Northwestern part of the Northern Nigeria, Zamfara state, the inpatient centres in Shinkafi and Zurmi have received up to 30 per cent more monthly admissions in April compared to March, adding that Talata Mafara’s facility saw about 20 per cent increase in the same period.

He added that MSF inpatient facilities in major cities like Kano and Sokoto are also reporting alarming surges, by 75 and 100 per cent respectively.

Dr. Tirima pointed out that the therapeutic feeding centre in Kebbi state also documented a rise of more than 20 per cent in inpatient admissions from March to April.

“We are resorting to treating patients on mattresses on the floor because our facilities are full. Children are dying. If immediate action is not taken, more lives hang in the balance”, the organization said.

The MSF appealed for collective effort to save lives and enable the children of Northern Nigeria to grow free from malnutrition and avoid its disastrous long-term fatality consequences, saying “humanitarian assistance must be urgently scaled up”.

The organization also called on the Nigerian authorities, international organisations and donors to take immediate action to diagnose and treat malnourished children to prevent associated complications and deaths.

It further advocated that a sustained long-term initiatives must be engaged to mitigate the underlying causes of the urgent problem.

The organization which recalled that the United Nations and Nigerian authorities issued an urgent appeal in May for $306.4 million to address the pressing nutritional needs in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, observed that the amount will be insufficient, as there are other parts of Northern Nigeria where needs also outweigh the current capacity of the organisations to respond sufficiently.

While regretting the reduction in aid at these critical times, Dr. Tirima said reducing nutritional support to only severely malnourished children is akin to waiting for a child to become gravely ill before providing care, urging donors and authorities to increase support urgently for both curative and preventive approaches.

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