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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid