UNICEF, UK govt float new project to protect North-East children
A humanitarian intervention aimed at improving the survival of children affected by conflict through the provision of food, nutrition sanitation and protection services in Nigeria’s North-East region will empower over 300,000 mothers and caregivers.
The intervention, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, the Multisectoral Integrated Nutrition Action project is being implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners in 24 local government areas of Borno and Yobe states till March 2025.
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 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committees.
According to Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, the overarching aims of the intervention which is 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, will help in the prevention of infections among children.
He explained that implementation of the intervention will see roving midwives deployed to hard to reach areas to improve the nutrition status and overall wellbeing of the most disadvantaged children.
According to data from Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and National Immunization Coverage Survey, approximately 1 in 4 children aged 12-23 months not vaccinated, in the north-east region has one of the highest numbers of unvaccinated children in Nigeria.
While data from the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: National Outcome Routine Mapping shows that four per cent of the population in Borno and two per cent 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.
Munduate, who thanked the FCDO for the intervention said it will help improve the survival of children in Borno and Yobe, who have been affected by conflict.
He said, “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.”