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UNICEF, UK Govt introduce project to protect children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the United Kingdom (UK) government has unveiled a three-year project focused on providing integrated food, nutrition sanitation, and protection services in north-east Nigeria.

A statement by UNICEF Nigeria on Wednesday says the intervention will empower over 300,000 mothers and caregivers in the north-eastern part of the country.

According to the statement, the intervention aims to 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.

The project, Funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government, the Multisectoral Integrated Nutrition Action (MINA) project is being implemented by UNICEF and other partners in 24 Local Government Areas of Borno and Yobe states till March 2025.

According to the statement: “With approximately 1 in 4 children aged 12-23 months are not vaccinated, the north-east region has one of the highest numbers of unvaccinated children in Nigeria, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and National Immunization Coverage Survey (MICS-NICS 2021).

“Data from the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASH NORM 2021) shows that four percent of the population in Borno and two percent in Yobe have access to safely managed drinking water.

“Up to 1.1 million people across the region still practice open defecation, a risk factor for malnutrition and stunting in children.

“The project leverages a bouquet of essential services and community structures to provide integrated essential services for children, including birth registration and immunization services, nutrition counseling, cash transfer support, the establishment of vegetable gardens, market-based sanitation, and hygiene interventions, mothers’ groups, nutrition mobilizers, and WASH Committees.

“Critically, the highly successful mother-led Mid-Upper Arm Circumference programme is being expanded while roving midwives will be deployed to hard-to-reach areas to improve the nutrition status and overall wellbeing of the most disadvantaged children.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said the first 1000 days of life of a child is an unmatched window of opportunity.

According to Munduate, UNICEF is grateful for the support of the FCDO 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 this intervention in the long term,’’ said Cristain Munduate.

Writing by Daniel Adejo