News

    Famine in Niger Continues, But Aid Pours In

    After a delayed reaction from the international community, funding to combat a famine in Niger is finally beginning to arrive.  But in the landlocked country's most heavily affected areas, there is little sign the crisis is abating, and some aid workers say things will likely get worse before they improve.

    There is not enough room under the protective awning just inside the entrance of aid agency Doctors Without Borders' emergency feeding center in Maradi. The organization has had to build an additional shelter outside. And still, many of the several hundred women and small children waiting to be admitted to the facility huddle together in what shade they can find, the sparse trees or the shadow of the camp's office.

    Medical staff here use a triage system, looking for the worst cases of malnutrition among the youngest, most vulnerable children, and bringing them in, one at a time, for an initial medical exam.

    Since the beginning of the year, the medical relief organization, known by its French acronym MSF, has treated more than 14,000 severely malnourished children in Niger. This year, the doctors say they expect to treat more than three times as many children as they did in Sudan's war wracked Darfur region in all of 2004.

    Laure Souley has come here with her three-year-old daughter and an infant son, whom she carries on her back.

    She says she works in the fields near her village.  Last year, she says, there weren't enough rains and, in some areas, the harvest was a disaster.

    Locusts also caused considerable damage to Niger's always-meager crop of millet and grain last growing season.  That was followed by rains that ended much too early, worsening the situation.

    The U.N.  World Food Program now estimates that more than 2.5 million Nigeriens are at high risk of severe malnutrition.

    After a delayed reaction to the crisis by donor countries, sufficient emergency aid has begun to arrive only very recently.

    Ms. Souley sits in the MSF admissions tent with her daughter Chapaatou, 3, crying in her arms. Chapaatou's body is skeletal. Flies crawl around her infected eyes and nose. Her hair is falling out.

    Chappatou is weighed and measured by a team of nurses.  She weighs just over five and a half kilograms and is just 72 centimeters tall.

    MSF, which usually operates in areas of severe medical crisis, opened its feeding center in Maradi in 2001. Niger suffers almost annual food shortages. But this year, says one of the center's medical staff, Dr. Chantal Umutoni, things are much worse.

    "The majority of pathologies we have here [are] severe malaria, anemia, diarrhea, and respiratory infections," said Dr. Umutoni.

    Malnutrition, Dr. Umutoni says, often makes routinely treatable illnesses fatal.  In the intensive care ward where Dr. Umutoni works, a child died the previous day.

    "Often there are some who came late and we lost them. Maybe from malaria, from diarrhea. And if they were coming earlier, we could have saved them. And I think that is the most difficult thing to cope with," she added.

    Young Chapaatou Soulay receives here medical checkup. Blood is taken for a malaria test. A nurse listens to her heart and lungs through a stethoscope.

    Her mother says she has been running a high fever for nearly four months. Nurses say she is negative for malaria and respiratory infection. But they say she has infections in both eyes. And when they try to feed her, she breaks into painful sobs.

    Chapaatou is among those who will be admitted to the center. Due to the limited capacity of the Maradi center, nurses say, around 40 percent of children have to be turned away.

    In Maradi, Doctors Without Borders is building new tents in its camp to accommodate more children.  MSF France's country director in Niger, Johanne Sekkenes, says the mission there is one of the most successful MSF has ever organized.

    "We have highly qualified medical personnel. We also have the products needed to take care of these children. We have a strategy of the hospitalization of the severest cases. And also a strategy of treating the severely malnourished children in outpatient clinics," she noted.  "All these factors, they help to have a very good cured rate. Eighty-five percent of the children admitted to the program, they will go home healthy."

    But, Ms. Sekkkenes says, despite the aid now pouring into Niger, for many this assistance has come too late. For others, she says, the future remains uncertain.

    "I see the situation as very serious. And we know that the coming weeks are the most difficult weeks of the year, every year in Niger. It's the rainy season. There's the diseases that come with the rainy season. It is also the weeks just before the next harvest. There's, if any reserves, food reserves, left in the villages, they're very low," she explained.

    The World Food Program (WFP) plans to begin free food distributions in the worst hit areas this week. It is appealing for nearly $60 million of food aid to combat the food crisis.  The United States has pledged more than $13 million in aid to Niger so far this year.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora