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Polio campaign paved way for malnourished children in Borno Nigeria

Borno, September 2016: Ten months old Classic Madumeri came to the immunization post for the two drops of polio vaccine but got another life-saving opportunity. The fourth child of the Madumeris screened for Severe Acute Malnutrition at the Maisandari Ward immunization post, Maiduguri Municipal Council in Borno State Nigeria.   Her 11.30 cm Classic‘s Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) reading brought a verdict of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), a life threatening condition that requires urgent treatment.  

The second round of the polio outbreak response during the last week of September 2016 utilized the polio infrastructure to identify and treat children, like Classic, with severe malnutrition. Classic is the last of four children, originally from Imo State, one of the South East States in Southern Nigeria. “We have been here for about 10 years. I breastfed Classic exclusively for 3 months but my business would not allow me to do this for 6 months. I used to take all the time to ensure she was fed well, even while at the hospital during the period after her birth. “But recently I started noticing she was losing weight, had fever, cough I became worried. Thank God I have this opportunity for immunization and a solution to this loss of weight,” Victoria Madumeri, Classics mother, says. She had resorted to an unhealthy practice of bottle-feeding and other local practice of complimentary feeding resulting into many hospital visits in the past.

​With a MUAC of 11.30 Classic was eligible for SAM treatment and promptly referred to a nearby UNICEF Out-Patient Treatment (OPT) Centre within the vicinity. The OPT Centre is part of an integrated polio immunization response combined with treatment of malnutrition among children under five in Borno State, Nigeria. “Classic has not been thriving well. Ever since she started to grow teeth I have noticed a number of things that were unusual. She has lost appetite, hardly keeps food down and also purges,” says her mother.

Nigeria adopted an integrated implementation whereby the polio infrastructure is utilized as a platform for detection and treatment of malnutrition cases in Borno State. Classic is among the many cases detected in the second round of the polio Outbreak Response (OBR), late September. No fewer than 800,000 children under 5 years were reached on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).

  The 10 month old, and many other children, is one of the casualties of several years of unrest in North-eastern Nigeria. Instability due to the activities of the Boko Haram insurgency dates back to 2009, with the Nigerian government declaring a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, the 3 worst affected states in the country. The insurgency led to one of the worst humanitarian crisis in North-eastern Nigeria, exposing an estimated 400,000 children under five years to acute malnutrition. Most of the children require life-saving assistance, most especially as more are being reached in conflict-affected areas of the region.

At the UNICEF supported OPT Centre OPT, Classic received RUTF and other necessary medication for malnutrition. The campaign is also taking place in the newly accessible areas in the state and with an estimated 800,000 children under 5 years to be reached. The advent of the ready to use therapeutic foods (RUTF) has further simplified treatment allowing large numbers of children who are severely malnourished and without medical complications, like Classic, to be managed at the community level.

New insight is being gained daily on the impact of the Boko Haram related crisis on children in Nigeria. SAM remains a major problem in the country, especially as new areas in the North east becomes accessible to humanitarian assistance. No fewer than 2.6 million conflict-affected people have had access to UNICEF-supported preventative healthcare services and about 75,000 children have been treated for severe acute malnutrition in northeast Nigeria since January 2016. Nigeria institutes series of coordinated response to polio outbreak in the North east after two-years of stoppage of transmission of the polio virus in the country.



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