News / Africa

    Aid Agencies Call for Preventative Action to Fight NIger Malnutrition

    A mother holds her malnourished infant in a Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) feeding center in Zinder, Niger, one of the country's areas hardest hit by food shortages and hunger in 2010, (File)
    A mother holds her malnourished infant in a Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) feeding center in Zinder, Niger, one of the country's areas hardest hit by food shortages and hunger in 2010, (File)
    Amanda Fortier

    Relief officials say better access to health care and family planning education can help reduce the number of malnourished children in Niger, where malnutrition rates remain above emergency levels, despite stronger rains and better harvests.

    Despite record harvests in October, more than 300,000 Niger children were treated for severe acute malnutrition.  This is more than Niger’s last major food crisis in 2005.

    Agriculture and livestock regularly suffer from massive droughts and floods in Africa's Sahel region.  Coupled with basic farming technology, limited access to doctors, and a burgeoning population, Niger's 15 million people are repeatedly affected by annual food crises and pushed deeper into poverty.

    But the UNICEF nutritional specialist for West and Central Africa, Robert Johnson, says fighting malnutrition in Niger is not simply a matter of food quantity.

    "Food security is considered the access and availability to an adequate amount and quality of food," he said. "And that is very different from nutrition, which is actually getting the food into your mouth and using them for your best possible development."

    Niger has one of the highest birthrates in the world with an average of eight children per family.  Relief officials say more than half will die before the age of five.  For those who do survive, a majority will suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunted growth.  

    "There is a clear link between access to healthcare and acute malnutrition being a disease and not only a deficiency of food," said Patrick Barbier, head of the Niger mission for Doctors Without Borders. "Access to health care is poor, so the health status of the children is poor.  So whenever there is a food shortage they are immediately affected, because they do not have resources, they do not have coping mechanisms, they do not have strong immune systems.  So they fall very quickly and they die at the end."

    Niger has more than 270 feeding centers to provide nutritionally-rich food and drink.  But Robert Johnson says treating malnutrition only when it becomes a serious problem puts everyone in a very difficult position.

    "There is a movement towards risk reduction," he said. "We have to focus a lot stronger on education and making sure girls get through education and not having children at 14, 15 years of age."

    Aid agencies help supplement local diets with high-caloric, nutrient-dense foods.  This helps ensure children get the required vitamins, minerals and proteins.

    "This helps to build a nutrition resilience that allows children to get through the most vulnerable two years of life and then have a chance to go to school, have a chance to learn, have a chance to grow up and be healthy during adulthood and be productive," Johnson said.

    Johnson says the number of malnourished children is greater than those with HIV and tuberculosis combined, yet tackling malnutrition is far cheaper.

    "With all the work in HIV and TB, it took a long time to convince people that treatment actually worked," he said. "And then once treatment actually worked, I think everybody got on board and started to say, 'O.K. now we have treatment covered let’s be serious about prevention.'  And I think that is where we are starting to get to with the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition."

    As Niger's military government prepares to return the country to civilian rule with presidential elections on Monday, one of the most pressing concerns for the new government will be providing better family planning and access to healthcare to reduce chronic malnutrition.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.