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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More