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Severe food crisis in Niger

Over 7 million people have been left vulnerable, with children under five and pregnant and nursing women the most at risk

Niger is in the middle of a severe nutrition and food crisis following insufficient and irregular rains in 2009 that caused poor food harvests and water shortages. Over 7 million people have been left vulnerable, with children under five and pregnant and nursing women the most at risk.

Niger is in the middle of a severe nutrition and food crisis following insufficient and irregular rains in 2009 that caused poor food harvests and water shortages. Over 7 million people have been left vulnerable, with children under five and pregnant and nursing women the most at risk. As one of the poorest countries in Africa, Niger already has one of the highest child death rates in the world. This latest food crisis will put even more children in danger. An estimated 455,000 children are now suffering from acute malnutrition, and the situation is considered critical in the regions of Zinder and Diffa, and serious in Dosso.

“Mothers are being forced to make the difficult decision between cultivating their fields to ensure the next harvest is a good one, and seeking care for their malnourished children,” says Helen Keller International’s country director in Niger, Marily Knieriemen. “In order to save these children’s lives, we are working with partners to provide community-based rehabilitation services within the affected communities.”

Helen Keller International is responding to this grave situation by supporting screening efforts to identify malnourished children and pregnant/nursing women and providing much-needed treatment to those who are malnourished. Working in the Diffa, Dosso and Zinder regions, HKI closely collaborates with Niger’s Ministry of Health, and other partners, such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme, to ensure services reach those most in need.

Using an armband to measure upper-arm circumference, volunteers screen children to determine their level of malnutrition. Those who are severely malnourished with complications are admitted to a district hospital, but all others can receive outpatient treatment from health workers.

Moderately malnourished children are given vitamin A, iron, folic acid, de-worming medication and (if appropriate for age) a measles vaccine. They also receive rations of fortified Corn Soy Blend combined with oil and sugar that will feed them for 1-2 weeks. Severely malnourished children without complications are given these same medications and are treated for infections and malaria. They also receive a 1-week supply of Plumpy’Nut – a nutrient-rich paste specifically designed to treat severe malnutrition.

by S. C.
05 july 2010, World News > Africa

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