Photo essay: Near famine in northeast Nigeria, two million children severely malnourished

Kellie Ryan/IRC

2.1 million children in northeastern Nigeria are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The war against Boko Haram has resulted in massive displacement and famine-like conditions. The International Rescue Committee is scaling up its life-saving response in the northeast, providing malnutrition, reproductive health, protection and education services.

Images of the IRC’s Safe Healing and Learning Spaces. Kellie Ryan/IRC

The majority of the displaced live within the community in Maiduguri, Nigeria rather than in displaced persons camps. Every household in Maiduguri has taken in the displaced and shared their limited resources. The IRC runs safe healing and learning spaces for children living in the community. A safe healing and learning space is a secure, caring and predictable place where children and adolescents living in conflict and crisis settings can learn, develop and be protected.

IRC Reporductive Health Clinics in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Kellie Ryan/IRC

The IRC is one of the only NGOs working in the northeast providing reproductive health services, including contraception. Many women living in crisis want to be able to choose where and when to have children. Whether they prefer to wait until they are living in a more stable circumstance or just want a break between children, the IRC provides them with family planning options from pills and injectables to IUDs.

The IRC supports Creative with social and emotional learning curriculum in informal schools in Maiduguri. Kellie Ryan/IRC

The IRC works with partner Creative to implement education services in Maiduguri. The IRC provides Creative with a social emotional learning curriculum which helps children recover from trauma and learn in the classroom. Usmain (top) fled Boko Haram with his mother (2nd row, left) and siblings when they heard the insurgents chanting, “God is great!” in the woods nearby. They knew an attack was immiment and were not able to grab their things. “We were in total fear.” Usmain’s mother told me. Now, Usmain attends an IRC-supported school. Although he has never been to school before, his teachers say he is extremely bright. Usman wants to be a doctor when he grows up to, “help people in need.”

Kellie Ryan/IRC

The IRC’s mobile health teams visit remote areas around Maiduguri to screen children for acute malnutrition. If a child’s health does not improve, they are referred to the IRC’s stabilization center. Famata’s (top) baby daughter, also named Famata, was referred to the center when her weight started falling. The nine-month old was severely malnourished when she came in to the center for treatment.

IRC’s Women’s Center in Bakassai Camp. Kellie Ryan/IRC

The IRC’s women’s center at Bakassi Camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria trains women to sew hats. Their hats are then sold in local markets to generate an income. Women have been living displaced in Bakassi camp for upwards of three years, and they have very limited opportunities to find work.

To learn more, watch the video below and visit Rescue.org.