MSF warns of food shortages for children in Niger, Nigeria

Vendors sell fresh produce from stalls at Garki Model Market in Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday September 1, 2020. By the end of the year, up to 12,000 people worldwide could die of starvation related to Covid-19 every day, possibly more than those who die from the virus itself, estimates the charity Oxfam International. Photographer: KC Nwakalor / Bloomberg via Getty Images

MSF warned on Monday of a serious food crisis among children in the Maradi region of Niger and northwestern Nigeria, just across the border.

“A major food and nutrition crisis appears to be developing, so the priority today is to prepare as well as possible,” said Issiaka Abdou, the agency’s head of West Africa operations.

Maradi has one of the highest birth rates in Niger – more than seven children per woman – and child marriage is widespread.

Not only because of the food shortage, but also because of the usual ban on giving fish and eggs to children, the children there regularly have nutritional problems, say experts.

This year, according to MSF, the number of severely malnourished children in its facilities in the region has risen sharply – 34 percent more than in the same period in 2020.

The number of patients admitted in critical condition rose 46 percent over the same period, particularly at Madarounfa Hospital.

Families in northwest Nigeria have brought their children across the border for treatment, the agency said: In Madarounfa, their numbers have increased by 90 percent compared to the previous year.

“In Nigeria, the growing insecurity, particularly due to criminal groups in the state of Katsina, has contributed to the deterioration in the living conditions of the people living there,” said MSF.

The charity said it was working to improve its work in Maradi and Katsina state, where the malaria season is particularly threatening.

In February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that 457,200 children between the ages of six months and five years had been exposed to severe acute malnutrition in Niger.

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