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Violence in Nigeria causing child hunger crisis

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The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is feeding thousands of Nigerians who have fled violence in their home country. The displaced persons have sought refuge in northeast Cameroon.

WFP is finding alarming malnutrition rates among these refugees. Children are suffering the most. Jacques Roy of WFP says, "Local communities have helped as much as they can but these refugees are in dire need of food and other assistance. We have found worrying levels of malnutrition, especially among children. Addressing this is a priority for WFP and our humanitarian partners."

Northern Nigeria is where 200 school girls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram back in April. Since that time violence has only escalated in the region, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Crops cannot be grown during this unrest and food prices have soared in the area. WFP has moved in to help feed those who have crossed the border into Cameroon. Food distributions began in June, reaching 7500. WFP already had operations ongoing in Cameroon.

The focus of WFP will be to battle malnutrition, as during times of conflict it can threaten children the most. As children arrive in Cameroon WFP is assessing their level of nutrition. What they are finding is deeply troubling. WFP reports, "In one village in the Waza district, acute malnutrition rates were as high as 25 percent, well above the 15 percent emergency threshold."

Malnutrition can cause lasting physical and mental damage among children, or even death. WFP's plan is to distribute special nutritional products that can keep children nourished, even during times of crisis. Food to pregnant or nursing mothers will be prioritized as well. Funding will be critical. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations.

It is estimated that at least 50,000 people will flee into Cameroon and need food assistance. WFP is also feeding refugees in Cameroon who have fled the war in Central African Republic. The UN food agency is facing one of its most difficult challenges ever, feeding the most refugees since the end of World War II.

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