The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is delighted to announce that the ‘Protecting Milestones’ campaign, run in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has raised over £1.2 million to tackle childhood malnutrition in Nigeria.

The campaign, which ran from 3 May 2022 to 3 August 2022, was aided by the UK government matching every £1 raised, subject to eligibility. Thanks to the generosity of donors and the public, the appeal raised £689,936, with an additional £595,056 coming from the UK government, taking the total to £1,284,992.

The scale of humanitarian need in Nigeria was highlighted in the IRC’s annual Watchlist 2023 Report, which names the top 20 worst humanitarian emergencies around the world. At present, 19.5 million people across the country are facing crisis levels of food insecurity. In northeast Nigeria, levels of violence remain high, driving the largest humanitarian emergency in the country. 37% of children under five are experiencing stunting due to malnutrition. This year, IRC stabilisation centres in Nigeria admitted 30,792 children with severe acute malnutrition; thankfully, 88% of them were treated and recovered.

West Africa is facing its worst food crisis in a decade, with 7 million children under the age of five suffering acute malnutrition. Conflict, climate change and displacement have led to loss of livelihoods and resulted in poor food production, compounding vulnerabilities caused by the region’s dependency on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia.

The funds raised through this appeal will support a new two-year programme starting in April 2023, to train healthcare workers and provide community-based malnutrition treatment, including promoting breastfeeding to new mothers, and delivering nutritious meal packs and education so more children can reach their key developmental milestones.

Bilkisu Muhammad, an IRC client in Nigeria who participated in a similar programme, said, 

“I have learned a lot from the health workers, including how to raise my children in a healthy environment at home, how to feed them and how to teach them…. Now that I have also learned to farm, it is also better for me to grow my own crops. I grow okra and other vegetables. I use them at home, and also sell some to others who don’t have any. With this money, I could buy things for my children and myself.”

Olunkunbi Olarewaju, IRC Senior Manager of Economic Recovery and Development in Nigeria, said,

“The malnutrition programme that can be established due to this campaign will give parents and families in Nigeria hope for the future of their children during this period of extreme crisis.

Rising inflation, climate change and weak public health institutions have exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation caused by insurgencies in the Northeast and Northwest regions of Nigeria. The need for external support to salvage populations at risk of economic hardship, food insecurity and disease has become increasingly urgent.”

Laura Kyrke Smith, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee UK, added,

“With unprecedented need in Nigeria clearly evident, the funds raised through this campaign are as timely as they are critical. With every malnutrition training, every vaccine, and every nutritional pack provided, another child is given the chance to reach their milestones and another parent is given the joy of seeing that happen.

For their support for this vital work, we cannot thank our donors and the UK government enough for their generosity and compassion.”