The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government has commenced humanitarian intervention focused on providing integrated food, nutrition sanitation and protection services in Nigeria’s north-east region.
According to the statement issued by UNICEF on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, the intervention will empower over 300,000 mothers and caregivers.
It said the project aims to enhance dietary practices, home-based malnutrition screening skills, provision of high impact lifesaving nutrition interventions (such as early identification and referral of acute malnutrition cases for treatment), and micronutrients supplementation to prevent infections among children. These interventions are aimed at improving the survival of children affected by conflict.
Funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government, the Multisectoral Integrated Nutrition Action (MINA) project is being implemented by UNICEF and other partners in 24 Local Government Areas of Borno and Yobe states till March 2025.
With approximately 1 in 4 children aged 12-23 months not vaccinated, the north-east region has one of the highest numbers of unvaccinated children in Nigeria, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and National Immunization Coverage Survey (MICS-NICS 2021).
Also, data from the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM 2021) shows that 4% of the population in Borno and 2% in Yobe have access to safely managed drinking water. Up to 1.1 million people across the region still practice open defecation, a risk factor for malnutrition and stunting in children.
According to UNICEF, the project leverages a bouquet of essential services and community structures to provide integrated essential services for children, including birth registration and immunization services, nutrition counselling, cash transfer support, establishment of vegetable gardens, market-based sanitation and hygiene interventions, mothers’ groups, nutrition mobilisers and WASH Committees.
Critically, the highly successful mother-led Mid-Upper Arm Circumference programme was being expanded while roving midwives would be deployed to hard-to-reach areas to improve the nutrition status and overall wellbeing of the most disadvantaged children.
Commenting on the development, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate lauded the initiative and informed that thousands of children would benefit from the intervention in the long term:
“The first 1000 days of life of a child is an unmatched window of opportunity. UNICEF is grateful for the support of the FCDO to invest early in the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
“It is heartwarming that through the capacity building and empowerment approach of this project, thousands of children will benefit from this intervention in the long term,” she said.