The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says it has been forced to end efforts to help malnourished children in the Maradi region of Niger. In July, the government ordered the group, also known as MSF, to suspend its operations, saying it had exaggerated the malnutrition problem. Repeated attempts to overturn the suspension have failed.
Nicolas de Torrente, executive director of MSF-USA, says, “So, clearly this is the worst possible outcome. After months of negotiations with the government of Niger, we’ve made every effort to determine the reasons for the suspension, to clarify our medical work, to redefine the methods of our operations in concert with the authorities.”
He says the group appealed the suspension at the highest level.
“Ten days ago, we called on the president of Niger to intervene and we have only received silence in response. We therefore have been left with no other recourse and are now forced to close the program. The timing of this could not be worse. The suspension of activities in July occurred really at the most difficult time of the year for young children in Niger. It’s the period between harvests, the so-called hunger gap. And it’s also a period when malaria is at its peak,” he says.
He says that many children could suffer as a result of the loss of the feeding programs.
“When activities were suspended in July, our team in Maradi was treating more than 3,000 children and received 500 new admissions into the program per week.… A nutritional survey that was conducted in June by the government of Niger, together with UNICEF, estimated the number of children in the Maradi region suffering from acute malnutrition to be between 35,000 and 67,000. It’s therefore all the more perplexing and alarming that recent public statements by officials in Niger downplay, if not deny, this reality,” he says.