“It is critical that action is taken now, in advance of the seasonal malnutrition peak, to avoid an even worse situation,” says Shaukat Muttaqi, MSF head of mission in Nigeria.
“We are only at the very beginning of the hunger gap period and already our facility is overwhelmed with more patients than we’ve ever seen on a monthly basis since the project opened in 2017. Previous trends tell us the worst is still to come. This represents a big flashing warning sign. Unless urgent steps are taken to prepare for the looming peak, people in Maiduguri will suffer deadly consequences.”
So far this year, MSF has admitted 2,140 malnourished children for hospital care in its inpatient therapeutic feeding center (ITFC) – about 50 percent more than from the same period last year.
For six weeks in May and June, even though the peak hunger gap season had barely begun, more malnourished patients arrived than at any time since the project opened in 2017–including at the very peak of the season in previous years. Up until May, our outpatient therapeutic feeding program saw a 25 percent increase in enrollments compared to last year.
In response, our teams extended the existing ITFC capacity from 120 beds to 200 beds. Even with that emergency measure in place, for some days in June there were not enough beds for all the malnourished children being admitted.
Other humanitarian organizations have also been operating at full or beyond their capacities. In some cases organizations have had to reduce services due to a lack of funding–including the closure of 16 much-needed outpatient therapeutic feeding centers. As a result, and if current trends continue, services will be overwhelmed, and many more malnourished children will be at risk of dying.