Aid for Nigeria: Hungry children most at risk as militants’ insurgency renews

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The return of Boko Haram poses a serious threat to the humanitarian crisis in Northeast Nigeria. UNICEF already says that close to half a million children could die of malnutrition before the end of the year.

Urgent humanitarian assistance is needed. But with a possible renewed insurgency, getting aid in will be even more difficult.

Bala Umar is the latest child to be brought to a children’s clinic in Dalori IDP camp near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

He is having difficulty breathing and suffering from diarrhea. But tests conducted on him show, he is actually suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

At only 9 months old, his arms are very thin and he weighs below 6 kilograms. A healthy boy of his age should weigh between 7.2 – 10.9 kilograms. Immediately, he is enrolled into a food and nutrition programme to stabilise him.

“They’ve given me some food supplements that would make him get better and I will try hard to ensure he is better cared for,” says the Hauwa Umar, Bala’s mother.

“Truly it’s not easy I need to make sure he’s better fed. I have no source of income, just what I get here in camp to sustain me.”

Unicef and partner organisations say hundreds of thousands of children are suffering from acute malnutrition but new cases keep emerging.

This particular camp has reported a 70% improvement in the management of malnutrition. But that progress in now threatened by humanitarian aid shortfall.

A recent Unicef survey says some 2.5 million children in the Northeast are facing starvation and 450,000 of them could die if more aid is not made available.

Harriet Dwyer, spokesperson for Unicef, says: “The situation here in the Northeast is still dire, the security situation is of extreme concern for organisations like Unicef, this year we are projecting up to 450,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition if they don’t receive lifesaving care.”

The full extent of the humanitarian crisis caused by years of Boko Haram insurgency is still difficult to tell. Although the military insists, Boko Haram controls no territory in the Northeast but vast parts of the region remains inaccessible to aid workers.

In some of those hard to reach areas, the UN says the humanitarian conditions could be even worse.

CGTN’s Kelechi Emekalam has more on that story from the Dalori refugee camp in Maiduguri.

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