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MSF in Niger, 2001
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Meningitis and Measles Epidemics Prompt MSF Action
MSF began working in Niger in spring 2001, when severe meningitis and measles epidemics struck the country. Much of the population has no access to health care, and for others lack of means meant that any people were unable to pay for treatment when they fell ill with the diseases.
Part of Africa's "meningitis belt," Niger was one of several countries to be hit particularly hard by this disease in 2001, even in areas where vaccinations had already been undertaken. MSF worked with local health authorities in the districts of Niamey, Tahoua, and Maradi to improve access to treatment for the sick and provide vaccinations to help prevent the spread of the epidemic. MSF also distributed treatment kits to health workers and local health facilities.
In response to the measles outbreak, MSF offered emergency treatment and helped plan a strategy of vaccination in cooperation with the local authorities. Mobile teams supervised by MSF volunteers vaccinated people in the three districts mentioned above.
Altogether, 370,000 people were vaccinated against meningitis and 330,000 against measles. MSF distributed another 600,000 vaccines for the two diseases to the health authorities.
During the course of the vaccination campaigns, MSF was able to assess the nutritional status in the three districts. It became evident that there was a nutritional crisis resulting from several years of drought and poor harvests coupled with the severity of the measles epidemic. In late August 2001, MSF opened two therapeutic feeding centers in the hospitals of Maradi and Dakoro to care for severely malnourished children.