MSF raises concern over malnutrition rise in 7 northern states

MSF raises concern over malnutrition rise in 7 northern states

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is facing an overwhelming influx of severely malnourished children at its medical facilities in seven northern states. 

The affected states, according to a statement issued by the MSF Field Communication Officer in Nigeria, Abdulkareem Yakubu, include Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi. 

The global humanitarian organisation indicated that the MSF in-patient facilities in Northern Nigeria have recently recorded an “Extraordinary increase in admissions of severely malnourished children with life-threatening complications,” surpassing last year’s figures by over 100 percent in some locations. 

“For the MSF teams, this is an alarming indication of a premature peak of the lean season and the increase in acute malnutrition that accompanies it, typically anticipated in July. 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. Everyone needs to step in to save lives and allow the children of Northern Nigeria to grow free from malnutrition and its disastrous long-term, if not fatal, consequences,” said MSF’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Simba Tirima. 

MSF called for urgent humanitarian assistance, urging Nigerian authorities, international organisations, and donors to take immediate action to diagnose and treat malnourished children and engage in long-term initiatives to address the root causes of the crisis. 

“We’ve been warning about the worsening malnutrition crisis for the last two years. 2022 and 2023 were already critical, but an even grimmer picture is unfolding in 2024. We can’t keep repeating these catastrophic scenarios year after year. What will it take to make everyone take notice and act?” Tirima queried in the statement. 

In April 2024, MSF reported that its medical team in Maiduguri, Borno State, admitted 1,250 severely malnourished children with complications to its in-patient therapeutic feeding centre, doubling the admissions of April 2023. By the end of May, the centre was urgently scaled up to accommodate 350 patients, far exceeding the 200 beds initially designated for the peak malnutrition season in July and August. 

Similarly, the MSF-operated facility in Kafin Madaki Hospital, Bauchi State, recorded a 188 per cent increase in admissions of severely malnourished children during the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. 

Also, in Zamfara State, in-patient centres in Shinkafi and Zurmi saw a 30 per cent increase in admissions in April compared to March, while Talata Mafara’s facility experienced a 20 per cent increase. Major cities like Kano and Sokoto also reported alarming surges, with increases of 75 and 100 per cent, respectively. The therapeutic feeding centre in Kebbi State documented a rise of over 20 per cent in admissions from March to April.

Despite the dire situation, MSF stated that the overall humanitarian response remains inadequate. Other non-profit organisations active in the region are also overwhelmed. In May, the United Nations and Nigerian authorities issued an urgent appeal for $306.4 million to address the nutritional needs in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, but this amount is deemed insufficient for the broader region. 

Daily Trust Saturday reports that the MSF had in December last year, temporarily evacuated a number of its staff from some of its facilities in Zamfara State, a development that some residents say might lead to serious setbacks in the area of healthcare delivery especially in rural areas.

 

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