Nearly 250,000 children under five years old suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria. Conflict in northeastern Nigeria has displaced 2.4 million people and pushed food insecurity and malnutrition to emergency levels. According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), over half a million people need immediate food assistance.

On June 27, 2016, The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund released a total of $13 million to help provide health services, food, nutritional supplements, cash for food purchases and protection to the most vulnerable people in Nigeria.

When people do not consume or absorb enough food daily, they fail to receive essential nutrients and become malnourished. When children are affected by malnutrition, their growth becomes stunted — they suffer from poor physical growth and slow brain development. Malnutrition in Nigeria has affected more than 11 million children.

Almost 20% of Nigerian children are underweight. Malnourished children are also more likely to die from illnesses due to their lower resistance to infection. “Unless we reach these children with treatment, one in five of them will die. We cannot allow that to happen,” said UNICEF Nigeria Representative Jean Gough.

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund provided funds to U.N. agencies in Nigeria to allow them to create and carry out a plan that would address the challenges the country faces. The funds will provide immediate life-saving nutrition, protection and food assistance to 250,000 people in northeast Nigeria.

Since mid-2016, donors have contributed $248 million to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. Donors pool their money and are in control of funds; as a result, money is available immediately to start relief operations.

UNICEF has also provided safe water, health and nutrition support to Nigeria, while the International Organization for Migration has provided household and other relief items. Others should strive to resemble such incredible organizations like these two who are paving the way in malnutrition and relief reform.

Jackie Venuti

Photo: U.N. Multimedia