News / Africa

Aid Agency Says Worse-Than-Usual Niger Malnutrition Season Nearing Its Peak

Drew Hinshaw

In Niger more than two million children are entering the peak of what authorities say is a particularly devastating hunger season causing a severe risk of malnutrition-related fatalities.

Niger has a long history with hunger as chronic food shortages stretch from May to September. The hardest days of the hunger season are approaching. Dr. Susan Shepherd is a medical advisor for the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

"Families are basically subsisting on small amounts of millet porridge, and this of course is the equivalent of trying to ask a young child to grow and thrive on bread and water," says Dr. Shepherd. "So it's not surprising that children, they lose weight, they become increasingly vulnerable to common infections and malaria also starts to exact its toll."

The group is delivering vitamin-fortified milk powder to between 150,000 and 300,000 children in a year that authorities say is worse than normal.

"But every year is a particularly bad year in Niger," she adds. "It's just a matter of degrees."

In the capital Niamey, and in regional health centers, Shepherd says national authorities have shown progress in charting the local response to the annual emergency. She says each year the country's health ministry has increasingly fine tuned its now five-year-old national anti-malnutrition program.

Niger's doctors and nurses, she says, have more tools and more training to combat malnutrition, and international aid groups are doing more preventative work, distributing high value supplementary food to children before the hunger season starts.

"I think there is an increasing recognition of that need," says Shepherd. "But every year I've worked in Niger we've taken care of increasing numbers of children regardless of whether harvests are good or less good. It's difficult to say that for the children in Niger things are overall getting better."

Like its Sahelian neighbors, Niger is a wide and rural country whose far-flung population is often difficult to reach for food aid and medical teams.

Shephard says that's why aid groups must do more in the offseason to fight malnutrition and prepare staff and supplies for the yearly hunger months.

"We know this is coming and there's no need to scramble for last minute program," she added. "We're arriving too late. Protective and preventive programs start best when they start early."

The United Nations World Food Program estimates life expectancy in the country at just over 44 years. And that does not include the one-out-of-every five children in Niger who do not survive past the age of four.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid