By Ismail Auwal
Over 300,000 children in north-eastern Nigeria have been projected to die due to Severe Acute Malnutrition(SAM) in 2021.
The projection, which was made by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday, further said that over 800,000 children in the North-East are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in the course of the year.
The North-East, comprising Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, and Bauchi states has been ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency for years.
In the statement, UNICEF said, “In North-East Nigeria, more than 800,000 children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, including nearly 300,000 with severe acute malnutrition who are at imminent risk of death.”
Apart from the North-East, UNICEF also said cases of malnutrition among children were dire in the North-West, with states like Kebbi experiencing a chronic malnutrition rate of 66 per cent.
“In Sokoto State, also in Nigeria’s North-West, close to 18 per cent of children suffer from wasting and 6.5 per cent suffer from severe wasting,” UNICEF added.
Further, the agency predicted that in 2021, an estimated 10.4 million children would suffer from acute malnutrition in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen.
“For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore
UNICEF also estimated that 21,439 children might have been born on January 1 in Nigeria, making the country to have recorded the third highest number of births globally on the New Year’s Day.
In a statement in Abuja by the acting UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Renu Wadhwa, an estimated 371,504 babies might have been born globally on the New Year’s Day.
According to the statement, India might have recorded the highest number of births at 59,995, while China having had 35,615, followed by Nigeria at 21,439.
The agency, however, advocated that more needed to be done to improve the life expectancy of Nigerian children, estimated at 62.8 years, which is 21.2 years lower compared to a global average of 84 years.
“These figures, while difficult to contemplate, are estimates and not predetermined – there are many things we can do to improve the fate of those children born today in Nigeria. We can and must work to change the underlying factors that can improve the life expectancy of Nigerian children,” Wadhwa said.
Meanwhile, Borno State Governor, Zulum, has pleaded for food for 800,000 IDPs in critical need across 11 towns in the state.
The governor made the appeal at the headquarters of the National Emergency Management Agency in Abuja during a visit on Thursday.
Zulum, who presented a letter to the Director-General, NEMA, Air Vice Marshal Muhammadu Mohammed (retd.), said the IDPs in Monguno, Bama, Damboa, Gwoza, Dikwa, Gamboru, Ngala, Damasak, Banki, Pulka and Gajiram needed urgent access to food supplies to complement efforts by the state government.
The governor pleaded that food interventions be sustained for the IDPs, who were mostly farmers but could no longer access their farmland because of insurgency.
In his response, Mohammed assured Zulum of the agency’s support for the IDPs.