Catastrophic malnutrition crisis in northwest must be recognised — Doctors Without Border

Interior shot of the stabilization ward at an MSF-run intensive therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC) in Maiyama General Hospital, Kebbi, Nigeria, 19 July 2022.

Abuja (27 September 2022): As the malnutrition crisis in northwest Nigeria continues at
catastrophic levels, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling for the humanitarian
community to respond to the emergency needs of people in the region, and for northwest
Nigeria to be included in the UN’s humanitarian response plan, enabling a broader and more
sustained response.

Since the beginning of 2022, MSF teams have witnessed extraordinarily high numbers of
children with malnutrition in MSF’s programs located in five states across northwest Nigeria.
Multiple factors have led to a sharp increase in malnutrition in the region over last year.

“With increasing insecurity, climate change and global inflation of food prices in a post-
pandemic world, we can only imagine this crisis getting worse,” said Dr. Simba Tirima, MSF
country representative in Nigeria. “The Nigerian authorities need support to deal with a
crisis of this magnitude. This must include emergency humanitarian funding now for
organisations able to respond and a commitment to include northwest Nigeria in the UN’s
humanitarian response plan for 2023.”

People queuing at MSF’s ambulatory therapeutic feeding center (ATFC), Kende Primary Health Center, Bagudo, Kebbi, Nigeria, 20 July 2022.

Since January, MSF teams working in collaboration with the Nigerian health authorities have
treated close to 100,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in 34 outpatient facilities
and admitted about 17,000 children requiring hospital care in 10 inpatient centres in Kano,
Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi states. In Zamfara state, one of the areas most affected
by ongoing violence and banditry, we recorded a 64 percent increase in the numbers of
severely malnourished children treated in the outpatient nutritional departments supported
by MSF from January to August 2022 when compared to January to August 2021.

MSF’s nutritional surveys have also underlined the severity of the crisis, including in areas
that are less affected by violence and insecurity. In Mashi local government area, in Katsina
state, MSF found a 27,4% rate of global acute malnutrition and a 7,1% rate of severe acute
malnutrition in June, even though the community has been relatively spared from violence
and forced displacement. These rates indicate a critical emergency.

Sadiya Tukur, holds her daughter Sharhabila, 2,5 years, while a community health worker takes her mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) measurements at an MSF-supported ambulatory therapeutic feeding center, Maiyama Primary Health Center, Kebbi, Nigeria, 19 July 2022. Sadiya lives in Kuitane, about an hour drive from the ATFC in Maiyama. Her daughter has been sick for more than two years, and she has visited numerous hospitals with not much improvement until she heard about the MSF nutrition program from a family member. “I have seen a lot of improvements since I started coming to this facility,” she said. Sadiya has 7 children. Her husband is a small-scale farmer, and they don’t have enough to feed the entire family. “In addition to the extra food I receive for Sharhabila, the staff also told me how to to prepare a balanced diet and how to better better wash my hands and my baby’s hand before a meal.”

The UN’s current humanitarian response plan for Nigeria focuses on the critical situation in
the country’s northeast region, excluding the northwest. Unlike MSF, which is not funded by
the humanitarian response plan, many organisations are currently unable to respond to the
acute needs in the northwest because they rely on it for funding.

“We understand the United Nations, donors and other stakeholders are increasingly aware
of the extent of the crisis in the northwest, but there is a need to go beyond discussions,”
said Froukje Pelsma, MSF head of mission in Nigeria. “It’s essential that the northwest is
included in the next Nigeria humanitarian response plan for 2023, because this plays a key
role in mobilising the resources to save lives.”

Leave a Reply