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The untold everyday story of Borno’s malnourished children (Part 1)

Yakaka Babagana, 28 years old, wakes up every day with one thing on her mind – her four-months-old daughter.

“Dear God,” she normally prays “give me the ability to provide enough food, nutritious food for my baby, when it is time for her to start eating what growing up children should eat.”

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Ms Babagana works at a clinic in Muna camp for internally displaced persons. She is the Provider of Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition (C-MAM) programme at the clinic set up by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). A job she said she has been doing since 2016 when the clinic was set up.

“Though I may have come from a background different from that of the parents of these malnourished children who come into our clinic every day, I still fear for my child even before she was delivered four months ago,” she said.

Breaking off from work to suckle her baby and then returning to her desk to continue attending to the patients, she represents an ideal humanitarian who is ready to give her little to save humanity.

“Malnutrition is a big problem we have in our hands here, and unless you come to the clinic and see the number of new cases being turned in every day, little would one appreciate the enormity of the challenge we face in this community, “ she said.

The story here is not all about Ms. Babagana. It is a story of the humanitarian crisis and challenges faced by millions of children in displacement caused by the ongoing decade-long insurgency.

It is established that a child that is left to suffer chronic cases of malnutrition, even if treated, lives the rest of his or her life with developmental impairment, like growth failure and impaired cognitive capacity for learning.

In Muna, a community not very far away from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and of course the birthplace of the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency, there exist two clinics located within an open IDP camp.

Muna community hosts the largest number of internally displaced persons. With over 35,000 inmates within the IDP camps. Officials of the state emergency management agencies said the number of displaced persons outside the camp and living in the host community tripled the figures inside.

Everyday IDPs troop into the clinics seeking one health-related care or the other. But the majority of the cases being attended to in the clinic that was set up by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) have to do with undernourishment.

The two clinics in Muna IDP camps service both the inmates and those living in the surrounding host communities.

With the two separate clinics recording about 100 new cases of severe acute malnutrition weekly, no one will raise an eyebrow when nutrition officials at the UNICEF Maiduguri Field Office said, “at least 233,000 children have been diagnosed with SAM between October 2018 and  May this year.”

“Every day we record at least eight to nine new cases here in the clinic ‘A’ of Muna IDP camp,” said Ms Babagana,

Speaking while taking some vital test of a baby whose mother had just brought in with suspected case of malnutrition, she said “whenever they bring in their children, we ask them to first and foremost take them to the WASH station to wash their body and their hands before we begin our examination.

“We check their temperature to find out if they are suffering any fever, then we take their weight and then carry out MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) test on them to ascertain their state of undernourishment.”

A child with less than 3.5kg body weight will not be admitted for treatment in our clinic because we have to refer them to the stabilisation Centre. But those with SAM are then subjected to appetite test by giving them RUTF and once we see the child taking the RUTF, then we commence treatment by giving the mother a weekly supply.

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