The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has said that almost 1.4 million children are at risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year in Nigeria and three other countries.
According to a statement issued by the UN agency, the three other countries are: Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.It would be recalled that South Sudan has already declared a famine in the country due to a combination of civil war and lack of rainfall.
According to the statement, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition in North East Nigeria is expected to hit 450,000.
Reports indicate that famine likely occurred in some inaccessible areas of Borno State last year, and that it is likely ongoing, and will continue,in other areas which remain beyond humanitarian reach.
In Somalia, almost half the population, or 6.2 million people, are facing acute food insecurity and in need of humanitarian assistance.
Out of this number, about 185,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition and the figure could rise to 270,000 in the next few months.
The situation in South Sudan has been described as more of man-made than natural.
Since gaining independence six years ago, the country has been engulfed in a bitter civil war that had led to the death of thousands while many more have fled.
According to UNICEF, over 270,000 children are severely malnourished in South Sudan and a famine has just recently been declared in parts of Unity State in the northern central part of the country, where 20,000 children live.
“The total number of food insecure people across the country is expected to rise from 4.9 million to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis,” UNICEF stated.
And in Yemen, where violent conflicts have been ongoing for the past two years, 462,000 children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a nearly 200 per cent increase since 2014.
“Time is running out for more than a million children. We can still save many lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
“The severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made. Our common humanity demands faster action.“We must not repeat the tragedy of the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa,”Lake warned.
In a related development, UNICEF also revealed that no less than 65,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups around the world in the past 10 years.
Lake made this known while addressing a gathering of world leaders in Paris, France to mark the anniversary of the Paris Commitments to end the use of children in conflict.
“Ten years ago the world made a commitment to the children of war and matched it with action – action that has helped give 65,000 children a new chance for a better life,” he said.
“But today’s meeting is not only about looking back at what has been accomplished — but looking forward to the work that remains to be done to support the children of war.”
The UNICEF chief acknowledged that the “exact data on the number of children used and recruited in armed conflict are difficult to confirm” but added that the agency estimates “that tens of thousands of boys and girls under the age of 18 are used in conflicts worldwide.”
Lake said: “Since 2013, an estimated 17,000 children have been recruited in South Sudan and up to 10,000 have been recruited in the Central African Republic.
“In Nigeria and neighbouring countries, data verified by the United Nations and its partners indicate that nearly 2,000 children were recruited by Boko Haram in 2016 alone.
“In Yemen, the UN has documented nearly 1,500 cases of child recruitment since the conflict escalated in March 2015,” he added.
Out of the 65,000 children-soldiers that have so far been released in the past 10 years, more than 20,000 were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nearly 9,000 in the Central African Republic, and over 1,600 children in Chad.
The number of countries that have endorsed the Paris Commitments have also increased from 58 in 2007 to 105 presently, signaling an increasing global commitment to end the use of children in conflict.