By Abraham Olatokunbo
Japan has donated $600,000 towards eradication of malnutrition in Borno and Yobe states, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Monday.
UNICEF, while revealing that the fund would cater for a year, lamented that at least three million conflict-affected children in north-east Nigeria will be screened for severe acute malnutrition under the new grant by the Government of Japan.
It said the new funds will help UNICEF work with mothers and other caregivers to boost community-based food production and the detection, referral and monitoring of children with severe acute malnutrition in Borno and Yobe.
It decried that children with severe acute malnutrition are at a significantly higher risk of death as compared to well-nourished children.
The statement said a recent survey found that malnutrition rates in children 6-59 months are as high as 10 per cent in Borno State and 12.3 per cent in Yobe State, which stood well above the five per cent threshold globally recognised to be of public health significance.
It lamented that with the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant loss of livelihoods and food insecurity, thousands more children could be at risk of malnutrition-related death or stunting in the North East region this year.
It revealed that the new grant will aid in the early detection and prompt treatment of children suffering from acute malnutrition and build a strong network of community nutrition responders who can ensure quick referrals of malnourished children to health facilities, where trained health workers will be able to help them.
The statement revealed that at least 50,000 pregnant and lactating women and other caregivers will be trained to store and cook affordable food for themselves and their children. They will also be trained how to monitor their child’s nutritional status at home.
The statement quoted the Chargé d’ Affaires a.i. at the Embassy of Japan in Nigeria, Mr. Shinozawa Takayuki to have said: “We are deeply concerned that children in north-east Nigeria are not only suffering the direct effects of conflict – but are also suffering from other life-threatening consequences like malnutrition. The children’s situation worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added that: “We hope that with these funds we can support UNICEF and Nigerian families and communities to ensure life-saving nutrition so that children can survive and thrive.”