From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government have jointly floated a new humanitarian intervention project that will, expectedly, improve the lives of children in North East Nigeria, particularly Yobe and Borno states.
The humanitarian intervention, according to UNICEF, is focused on providing integrated food, nutrition sanitation and protection services in the North East region, and will also empower over 300,000 mothers and caregivers with necessary toolkits for the care of their children.
Additionally, the intervention will 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 micronutrient supplementation to prevent infections among children.
UNICEF, in a statement released in Abuja, on Wednesday, further explained that the project will leverage a bouquet of essential services and community structures to provide integrated essential services for children, including birth registration and immunisation services, nutrition counselling, cash transfer support, the establishment of vegetable gardens, market-based sanitation and hygiene interventions, mothers’ groups, nutrition mobilisers and WASH committees.
It made reference to the recently released Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and National Immunisation Coverage Survey (MICS-NICS 2021) which indicated that the North East region has one of the highest numbers of unvaccinated children in Nigeria.
It also revisited data from the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM 2021) which showed that only four per cent of the population in Borno state and two per cent in Yobe state have access to safely managed drinking water, while over a million people across the region still practice open defecation, a risk factor for malnutrition and stunting in children.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, in her submission, emphasised the fact that the first 1000 days of life of a child is an unmatched window of opportunity.
She extended UNICEF’s gratitude to FCDO for choosing 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 the intervention in the long term,’’ said Cristian Munduate.