The horrible prediction is based on famine-like conditions created by Boko Haram if donors don’t respond quickly.
The Fund stresses that’s far more than the 20,000 people killed in the seven-year Islamic uprising.
Arjan de Wagt, nutrition chief for UNICEF in Nigeria, notes that the severity of malnutrition levels and high number of children facing death make the humanitarian crisis confronting northeastern Nigeria perhaps the worst in the world.
De Wagt explains that most severely malnourished children die of secondary illnesses like diarrhea and respiratory infections.
The expert says: “But with famine, you actually die of hunger. Globally, you just don’t see this. You have to go back to places like Somalia five years ago to see these kinds of levels. Nearly 260,000 people died in Somalia between 2010 and 2012 from severe drought aggravated by war.”
On Thursday UNICEF doubled the amount of its appeal for Nigeria, saying $115 million is needed to save children. However, only $24 million has been raised so far.
Speaking about the whole society De Wagt stressed: “Of 4 million people in desperate need of food are about 2.2 million people trapped in areas where Boko Haram is operating or in newly liberated areas that still are too dangerous to reach by road. Among them, 65,000 are living in famine-like conditions.”
In their turn aid group Doctors Without Borders states: “The crisis has reached catastrophic levels for people who have sought refuge in towns controlled by the military but who are entirely reliant on outside aid that does not reach them”.
However, de Wagt admits that the agency continues to deliver some therapeutic food by helicopter and to train local health workers to treat malnourished children living in dangerous areas.
Doctors Without Borders state that the highest levels of starving children are in camps in Maiduguri, the northeastern city free of conflict where aid workers have been active for two years: “The mortality rate is five times higher than what is considered an emergency, with the main cause being hunger”.