UNICEF: 800,000 Children in North-East are Suffering Acute Malnutrition, 300,000 at Death Risk 

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United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 800,000 children will suffer acute malnutrition in the North-East axis of Nigeria this year.

In a recent statement, UNICEF said around 300,000 children of the total projection is at imminent risk of death.

The disturbing news is coming as Ogun State Government, in partnership with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is planning to commission an agro-commodities airport in the state.

Governor Dapo Abiodun who disclosed this says the airport will facilitate the transportation of agro-allied commodities within and outside the country, pointing out that the project is duly supported by the ex-president cum farmer.

He notes that the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has made it imperative to ensure adequate protection of the food systems.

While expressing optimism in the ability of the state to become a special agro-processing zone, he called for an influx of urgent and indigenous solutions to fast-track the sector’s recovery.

Adding, he said no fewer than 5,000 youths in the state will receive mentoring, support, and linkage to profitable agro-investment firms, as a prelude to setting them up in their respective businesses, this coming year.

“We are looking at having an agro-allied based airport from which agro produces like what we have here can be airlifted outside the country and still get to other destinations fresh. We are looking at this kind of thing that will complement all that we are doing.

“We, as a government, believe in what Baba (Obasanjo) is doing and we will continue to advocate for this because we see ourselves as fast becoming the breadbasket of this nation.

“We believe in this project, we believe that agriculture is a way out of poverty and unemployment. We believe that we can actually grow what we eat and what we grow and we want to commend former President Obasanjo for continuously and tirelessly walking the talk”, the governor said.

In the mean time, no less than 124 children in Kaduna State last November died of malnutrition with over 21,000 of them hospitalised.

In the new projection from UNICEF, the international agency says about 10.4 million children in seven African countries, including Nigeria, will suffer from acute malnutrition in the New Year.

According to the UN agency, the six other countries are the Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, South Sudan and Yemen.

“As 2021 approaches, UNICEF is deeply concerned for the health and well-being of 10.4 million children projected to suffer from acute malnutrition next year in those countries,” the statement read in part.

The impact of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, insecurity and limited access to health services are among the contributory factors to the current situation, UNICEF noted.

In Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, the number of malnourished children could increase by 21 per cent to a staggering 2.9 million amid conflict, displacement and climate change in the region, the statement further said.

In Yemen, the number of malnourished children is expected to rise from its previous two million children caseload.

For the Democratic Republic of Congo, an estimated 3.3 million children are projected to suffer from malnutrition this year owing to the aforementioned factors – the impact of the pandemic, insecurity and limited access to healthcare.

“For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe.

UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, says “families already struggling to feed their children and themselves are now on the brink of famine. We can’t let them be the forgotten victims of 2020.”

Over 1.4 million children are also projected to face acute malnutrition in South Sudan due to the same factors, including poor hygiene. UNICEF observed that the South Sudan projection is the highest since 2013.

The UN agency is therefore, calling for local and international support for children in the listed countries.

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