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MSF in Niger, 2002
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"Plumpy nuts" save children's lives
In this poor country where 20% of children under three are chronically malnourished, hospitals rarely provide adequate medical treatment for severely malnourished children -- a major factor behind one of the world's highest infant mortality rates.
During vaccinations of over a million people as part of MSF's emergency response to meningitis and measles epidemics in April 2001, standard MUAC (mid-upper-arm circumference) measurements among children under five showed an alarming rate of nutritional deficiency. This was due mainly to the effects of three years of drought and failed harvests, and the debilitating measles epidemic.
MSF opened a therapeutic feeding center in Dakoro in July 2001 and supported the existing one at the Maradi hospital, in the two regions worst affected. When over 800 children were admitted to the Maradi feeding center in three weeks, MSF doubled its capacity. A total of 5,000 children were treated for severe malnutrition during the emergency and the 300-bed center at the Maradi hospital continues to respond to the ever-present needs.
In September 2001, MSF began an innovative program adapted to the needs of patients who are mostly poor and from rural areas. After a reduced phase of hospitalization, mothers bring their children for weekly checkups at which they receive a week's ration of an enriched food supplement known as "plumpy nuts." A pilot scheme to produce plumpy nuts locally starts in August 2002.
MSF has responded to food and epidemic emergencies in Niger since 1985.