MSF has treated exceptionally high numbers of malnourished children throughout 2021 as the chronic vulnerability of the conflict-affected people was exacerbated by a major outbreak of measles.
A statement from the MSF on Wednesday, 15 December, 2021 revealed that these and other factors have driven hospital admissions and outpatient consultations for malnutrition to climb to levels unseen in recent years, and may signal a broader deterioration in the vulnerability of people in the region.
“So far in 2021, we have admitted 2,465 severely malnourished children for hospitalisation in our inpatient therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC) in Maiduguri, representing an increase of 13 per cent from the year before.
“At the same time, enrollment in our outpatient therapeutic feeding programme continues to increase, with 4,144 patients enrolled so far this year, more than 50 per cent more patients than were seen in the same period in 2020. Out of all admissions for severe acute malnutrition, more than 80 per cent of admissions were for children living in households displaced by the ongoing conflict in Borno state.
“While we cannot extrapolate from hospital data a general understanding of people’s nutrition status, this year has clearly shown us that displaced people in particular remain extremely vulnerable to peaks of malnutrition and the numbers of malnourished children we are receiving suggests it may be getting worse,” says Shaukat Muttaqi, MSF head of mission in Nigeria.
“This is a concerning dynamic and needs further analysis and engagement from all concerned actors to ensure proactive and preventative action to ensure the situation does not get worse,” MSF said
According bro the organization, 120-bed ITFC is the largest single provider of hospital care for malnutrition in Borno State and represents a third of all beds available for malnourished patients.
While many factors affecting malnutrition are complex – including the direct and indirect impact of conflict on food security, access to humanitarian aid, health status – admissions data and the increase in patients this year suggests a concerning trend.
“One important medical factor contributing to the high malnutrition admissions was an outbreak of measles, which began in February. From January to October 2021, our teams at the only paediatric hospital in Gwange treated 2,974 children for measles on an inpatient basis while 2,545 other children were treated at the outpatient department within the same period.
“During outreach activities in Zabarmari village in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State between mid-February and end of July 2021, our mobile clinic team provided treatment to 2,517 children suffering from measles.
“While the traditional hunger gap period typically occurs from June until November, we admitted 60 to 150 per cent more patients per month from March to May in 2021 compared to 2020,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, the numbers of malnourished patients needing treatment have remained higher than previous years throughout the entirety of the hunger gap period.
“This year, we relocated our inpatient therapeutic feeding centre in June to a new facility to allow for increased overflow capacity but the outpatient programme continues to see unprecedented levels of admission.
“Outpatient therapeutic feeding (ATFC) programmes provide medical care and therapeutic food to children, which reduces the risk of life-threatening medical complications if they get sick. We are currently providing ATFC care in five locations in Maiduguri but the drastic increase in enrollment is a clear sign that more availability of care is needed.
“Gaps in vaccination also pose an ongoing threat to the community, as the impact of the measles outbreak this year has already highlighted. Although a mass measles vaccination campaign was undertaken this year in response to the outbreak, vaccination rates remain chronically low and routine immunisation is not always available.
“We are now approaching the end of the hunger gap period, however what we saw this year is deeply concerning,” says Muttaqi “The same factors remain in place that could allow for further deterioration next season. Renewed focus and attention is needed from all relevant actors to prevent an even more serious deterioration during the hunger gap next year,” the statement said