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  Hunger most lethal arsenal of Boko Haram

Hunger most lethal arsenal of Boko Haram

AFP | PHIL HAZLEWOOD AND AMINU ABUBAKAR
Published : Sep 22, 2016, 5:40 am IST
Updated : Sep 22, 2016, 5:40 am IST

Women and children queue up to enter one of the Unicef nutrition clinics in Muna informal settlement in the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria. (Photo; AFP)

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Women and children queue up to enter one of the Unicef nutrition clinics in Muna informal settlement in the outskirts of Maiduguri, Nigeria. (Photo; AFP)

Doctors crowded around Abdullahi. One squeezed a drip and another prepared a plastic syringe. The young boy didn’t move. Only the shallow rise and fall of his chest indicated he was still alive. Fluid was injected to try to stabilise the two-year-old’s blood sugar levels. “He’s better than he was 20 minutes ago,” said one doctor. “But his condition is still critical.”

 

Abdullahi’s mother, Hadiza, perched on the end of the bed, as if trying to get as far away as possible from the machines and lines attached to her tiny son. She turned her head and sobbed.

All of the children brought to the intensive care unit at the field hospital in the Gwange area of Maiduguri are starving to death because of Boko Haram.

Abdullahi’s body was swollen from the protein deficiency kwashiorkor. In the next bed lay Hafsat, a 13-month-old girl whose body was little more than skin and bone. “Her mother died five weeks ago,” explained Hafsat’s aunt, Fatima Ladan, holding the girl up. “I tried to breastfeed her but there wasn’t enough milk.

 

There have been repeated warnings about the effects of food shortages caused by the Boko Haram conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 people and left 2.6 million homeless since 2009. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world — even within Nigeria.

In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five — some 50,000 — could die. Last month, the UN said 4.5 million people in three northeast states needed immediate food aid — double the number in March. Of those, more than 65,000 people were said to be facing famine. But fighting and insecurity has left some hard-to-reach rural areas cut off from help.