(Vatican Radio) UNICEF is warning that thousands of children are starving and face death in areas of Nigeria’s Borno state that were formerly controlled by Boko Haram militants. The UN children’s agency said nearly a quarter of a million children in the area are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and one in five of them would die unless they are treated soon. Doune Porter is the Head of Communications for UNICEF in Nigeria and she spoke to Susy Hodges about this developing humanitarian crisis.
Aid workers have found thousands of people without water, food or sanitation in areas of northern Nigeria where Boko Haram militants had been in control before their recapture by government troops.With homes and business destroyed and farmland devasted, the UN has warned that some 50,000 children could starve to death in Borno State alone this year if nothing is done. Porter said as more areas become accessible to humanitarian help, the extent of the nutrition crisis affecting children is becoming more apparent.
Describing the situation facing these children in Borno State as “dire and critical” Porter said these “extremely malnourished” children are “9 times more likely” to die from common childhood illnesses like diarrhea than those who are properly nourished. She said as more parts of the Borno State formerly under the control of Boko Haram were liberated they were continuing to see “new areas” where “the conditions are really terrible" and "tragic."
Asked about fatalities, Porter said UNICEF estimates that around 134 children will die every day from causes linked to malnutrition unless humanitarian aid reaches them soon and said some deaths have already occurred. She conceded that “there is a risk that famine will develop” in these areas if the humanitarian response for these vulnerable children is not scaled up very quickly.