Maiduguri, 15 March 2017 - An estimated 400,000 children in the northeast, Nigeria are currently suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Severe acute malnutrition is a life threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. Without proper treatment, one in every five of those children -75, 000 could die.
Responding to the situation, WHO provides urgently needed essential medicines and supplies to the stabilization centers to treat SAM cases with medical complications in Borno state. The story of Umar, 24months old, demonstrates the impact of WHO’s humanitarian health response.
Umar is one too many
On admission at the WHO-supported Stabilization Centre, Umaru Shehu Hospital, Maiduguri, the 2-year old Umar had a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of 9 cm and weighed 5.2 kg. Umar’s situation was made even more complicated because of his poor health condition. A healthy 2-year old child weighs more than 12kg with a MUAC of more than 12.5cm. Therefore, severely malnourished Umar, required inpatient care having developed medical complications.
“My grandson is better now compared to when we arrived here last month,” says Umar’s grandmother. “I was afraid. I thought he will not survive but we are here for more than a month now. I have not paid a penny for all the treatments he has received and we are fed three times a day at no cost to me” she adds.
Umar’s mother died shortly after his birth and the family escaped Boko haram attacks in Magumari local government area (LGA) of Borno state. Now they live as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in a host community in Jere LGA.
“Umar has spent 38 days at this centre,” says Ali Abdulkadir, Stabilization Centre Nurse. “His situation has improved from MUAC of 9cm on admission to 11cm and he now weighs 6.7kg. Thanks to WHO and partners who provide us with medicines and other supplies free of any cost.”
Umar is just one out of other several thousand children in the northeast Nigeria who are suffering from different malnutrition conditions. According to WHO, Severe acute malnutrition affects an estimated 19 million children under 5 years of age worldwide and is estimated to account for approximately 400,000 child deaths each year. Severe Acute Malnourished (SAM) children are nine times more likely to die than healthy children.
Hence, more resources are needed. The United Nations and partners need US$ 94 million to provide healthcare services to 6 million people in the northeast Nigeria, more than half of them children. Of this share, WHO needs US$ 37 million to deliver on its response plans for 2017.
WHO has provided essential medicines to ten stabilization centres across Maiduguri, Jere, Bayo, Kwaya Kusar, Chibok, Askira Uba and Hawul LGAs. Most of the patients are referred from the community based screening centres for acute malnutrition conducted by WHO-trained healthcare workers while others are identified at the health facilities when they are presented with other health problems.
WHO has a strong presence in the communities; thanks to a well-established polio programme which includes hard-to-reach teams of healthcare workers trained on screening and referral of acute malnourished children using MUAC measurement and checking for nutritional oedema. So far, the hard-to-reach teams have screened almost 17,000 children for malnutrition, besides, nearly 500 Integrated Community Case Persons already trained to provide a range of childhood community case management including nutrition screening and referral.
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