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MSF in Niger, 2006
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Since 2005, MSF has been running an emergency operation to treat tens of thousands of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in various parts of Niger. The therapeutic feeding strategy now utilises outpatient clinics and ready-to-use therapeutic foods, enabling MSF to treat far more children than in the past. Recovery rates climbed to more than 90 per cent in Niger in 2005.
In mid-2005, MSF opened seven new inpatient centers in Maradi province, two in Tahoua province, and 27 ambulatory centers. When malnutrition levels began to fall, most of these centers were closed or handed over to other nongovernmental organizations (NGO). Staff then concentrated on helping children in southern Maradi, where there continued to be a high rate of malnutrition. In August, MSF started working in the Tanout area of northern Zinder province, setting up a therapeutic feeding center (TFC) and 11 outpatient feeding centers. The TFC was closed in January 2006 after treating more than 3500 children. MSF also provided care in the Ouallam district of the Tilaberi region during 2005, treating 501 severely malnourished and 2355 moderately malnourished children in the last four months of the year. The program was handed over to another NGO in late December 2005.
In 2006, MSF teams continued working in the regions of Zinder, Maradi, and Tahoua treating both severe and moderate cases of malnutrition. By June 2006, more than 25,000 children were receiving malnutrition- related medical care from MSF teams. About 2000 children were being admitted to its nutritional programs each week. Because a sick child is at greater risk of developing acute malnutrition, MSF is working with the Ministry of Health to offer free care to children under five in most of the health centers in the Maradi region. MSF opened two paediatric units in Maradi in July 2005 to handle cases of severe malaria, acute respiratory infection and acute diarrhoea. More than 50,000 consultations and 2000 hospitalizations were carried out in these two hospitals during 2005. From January through May 2006, MSF carried out 30,000 consultations and 900 hospitalizations.
In October 2005, the Niger government, backed by the UN's World Food program, called for food distributions to end. This was done two weeks after the harvest so as not to destabilise the market. MSF called for these distributions to be redirected towards the areas where families were suffering from acute malnutrition. MSF teams began to distribute a proportion of the UN aid to the most affected villages to the south of Zinder in late October. In southern Maradi, MSF distributed 130,000 food rations for moderately malnourished children.
In February 2006, a meningitis outbreak occurred in the southern districts of Maradi province. MSF started a vaccination campaign, immunising more than 800,000 people during February and March. Staff also cared for some of the patients already diagnosed with the life-threatening disease.
MSF has worked in Niger intermittently since 1985.