By Chioma Obinna
All over the world, it is believed that children are the future and leaders of a nation but can that be said of Ayuba Usman and thousands of children in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa?
This is because these helpless children and their parents are victims of growing insurgency in the North East of Nigeria. Ayuba woes started right from his mother’s womb even though neither he nor her parents committed any sin against anybody.READ ALSO:World has failed to protect children in conflict in 2018 — UNICEF(Opens in a new browser tab)
His mother, Amina was a month pregnant when she and his late father were captured by Boko Haram. Sadly, his father was murdered while in Boko Haram detention.
Like every other woman, Amina, continued to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of her other children on her own while being pregnant.
While in Boko Haram captivity, the poor feeding affected her mother’s health and that of her unborn baby.
Today, at 4, Ayuba cannot crawl, stand or walk like other children of his age who would have been in nursery school. Further screening showed he is suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM, a level of malnutrition the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, describes as life-threatening.
Statistics from UNICEF show that the malnutrition situation Borno State has passed the WHO’s 10 per cent making the response an emergency.
In 2018 alone, a total of 37,378 children were treated for malnutrition by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in 2018 and in 2019, 321,000 is estimated to SAM.
Amina, her mother said the family has lost so much to the insurgency. She had lost her husband, properties, home and is on the verge of losing her child to SAM but thanks to the ongoing intervention by UNICEF, with support from the DFID with the Ready -To -Use Therapeutic Food, RUTF, specially made for the treatment of SAM.
The pain in Amina’s heart was obvious but just like thousands of women who have lost their husbands and other family members, she braced up for the challenge.
Having survived the attack and several months in detention by Boko Haram, Amina still has other challenges to tackle; malnutrition, hunger, and poverty as she can barely feed her children three times a day even in the IDPs camp.READ ALSO:UNICEF, EU, supports Kebbi to implement primary healthcare (Opens in a new browser tab)
Narrating her ordeal, 30- year-old Amina from Bama said: “After my husband’s death in 2016 when Boko Haram had attacked our village and adopted I and my husband and other community people. At some point, they killed my husband and somehow we find ourselves in Niger. Since then, life has not been easy.
“We were fed once a day in the camp of Boko Haram. I was a month pregnant when they adopted me and my husband even now that we are back to the IDPs camp feeding has not really improved. My child is affected by malnutrition. At age 4, he can barely crawl. He has no energy either to stand or walk,” Amina said in Hausa language.
“At some point, I realised that my child was not growing well like other children, then I started to worry but while in Niger, I could not do anything but hoping he will get better. After we moved from Niger to Nigeria, we discovered that the child was suffering from malnutrition.
“My children and I had been suffering and my son has been in a terrible condition until five days ago when officials of UNICEF screened him for malnutrition and started administering RUTF. He is improving and eating better now,” she said.
Helpless Amina who sells locally prepared moimoi and awara appealed for peace in her community and assistance to support her little business in order to feed her children said: “I am excited that my son is now improving because he was in a very terrible state before. All I want is for peace to reign and that the government should fund my business to train my children in school.”
Her son, Ayuba is one out of the estimated 440,000 boys and girls under the age of 5 in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) States that will suffer from SAM in 2019.
Unlike Amina’s son, Ayuba, Alimoudu, 4, was not so lucky. According to his grandfather, Mohammadu Ali, Alimoudu became orphaned as a result of insurgency that claimed the lives of his parents. Mohammadu said Alimoudu who has been battling malnutrition is alive today because he ran away with him in the midst of the crisis in their village.
“The boy was never breastfed. He was three months old when I took him away. When we came to Maiduguri we were begging and I was also doing security job to survive. He has been feeding on only pap that is why he’s malnourished.”
Today, Alimoudu is among the 3,444 children ravaged by malnutrition in Borno being treated by UNICEF with support from DFID. He is currently on treatment for malnutrition in the last eight weeks.
“I took him to the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition Centre, CMAMC, site after the UNICEF officials visited our IDPs camp in Dikwa and screened him for malnutrition. I am happy he is okay now,” he added amidst smiles.
Another victim is 16 months old Musa Adamu. According to his 25-year-old mother, Libabatu Musa, who is also internally displaced and living within Shuwaruwan community, her son is battling with malnutrition.
Libabatu said it all started with fever and headache, when he was 10 months old. Little, did she know it was SAM, known as Tamuwa in their language.
Musa is being treated with RUTF in one of the UNICEF CMAMC in Borno. But prior to the treatment, she had sought the help of traditional healers. Out of ignorance, she tried to treat him with herbs but his condition continued to deteriorate.
“When my son was 11 months old in our native Shuaruwan community, he began to lose weight rapidly. We thought he was suffering from dehydration as a result of diarrhoea.
We took him to traditional healers, then to the General Hospital but there was no improvement in his condition. He was emaciated, without healthy appetite and always crying.
“We were later referred to the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition Centre, CMAMC, Mala Kachalla treatment Centre in Maiduguri where he was placed on RUTF. He has not only regained his weight but he now eats whatever he is given.”
The stories of Amina, Alimoudu and Libabtu are just a tip of the iceberg.
Today, three states in the North East, including Borno, Adamawa and Yobe now grouped as BAY States have been identified as States with a high burden of SAM,
Findings by Good Health Weekly showed that SAM is real and despite efforts of international organisations like UNICEF and DFID, in state, the menace still persist. The stack reality is that the number of children treated only scratches the surface of the problem as more people are either displaced or trapped in their own communities as the insurgency continues.
Malnutrition is widespread in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe courtesy of insecurity, poverty and ignorance.
Further data from the Nutrition Sector estimates that there will be 258,950 boys and girls suffering from SAM in 2020 in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
Sadly, although N5 billion is needed to procure 258,950 cartons of RUTF for SAM treatment, funding has been secured for 29,314 cartons of RUTF, while a funding gap of N4.4 billion for the procurement of 229,636 cartons of RUTF still exist.
UNICEF officials are also expressing worry that influx of Internally Displaced Persons (new arrivals) may also further exacerbate the already poor nutrition situation.
According to UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist, Usman Aminu while there has been a slight improvement in the nutrition situation in Borno, wide-spread insecurity, population displacement; poor Food Security situation, sub-optimal Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Practices and high disease burden have continued to strain the on-going efforts to curb malnutrition in all its forms in the region.
According to the latest Nutrition Survey, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among boys and girls aged below five Years is 11 per cent in Borno, 13 per cent in Yobe and six per cent Adamawa, indicating very high levels of malnutrition according to the WHO classification.
“The Protracted Access Constraints has made the Situation even worse in Rann (Kala Balge), South Yobe, Magumeri, Jere and Konduga Local Government Areas. If not timely identified and treated, malnutrition has serious and permanent consequences in the growth and development of children.
More data from UNICEF revealed that one out of two child deaths under the age of five is attributed to malnutrition.
In the views of another UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Borno Field Office, Abigael Nyukuri, children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition are four to 11 times more likely to die compared to their healthy counterparts.
“Children suffering from SAM are immune-compromised, increasing their likelihood to suffer from a range of infections and disease complications. Malnutrition causes irreversible brain damage and compromised intellectual capacity in adulthood leading to reduced productivity and an estimated 16 percent loss in the Growth Domestic product.
She disclosed that to support curbing malnutrition in all its forms, UNICEF with funding from DFID is implementing two multisectoral projects to promote positive nutrition outcomes in North-East Nigeria; The Flexible Integrated and Timely (FIT) Project in Borno State and Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) project in Yobe State.Related