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

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

IS Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs