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MSF in Niger, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 1,546
Reason for Intervention:
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The extreme nutritional crisis in Niger in 2005 provoked an international response, but malnutrition here is both recurrent and life threatening. Even though some regions of the country produce a surplus of cereals, a “hunger gap” exists between May and October when family millet stocks become depleted and the country’s free market economic system renders food unaffordable for the poorest families. Mortality rates for children under five years old are very high, similar to those in countries at war.
In 2006, MSF continued to use a relatively new nutritional rehabilitation product to treat malnourished children, ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF). A vacuum packaged, nutrient dense peanut-milk paste, this portable product has allowed MSF to increase its capacity to treat malnutrition 10-fold, as children without medical complications can now be cared for as outpatients. This strategy is much easier for mothers, who can provide this food to their children at home. MSF also showed that this rehabilitation strategy was highly effective for treating moderately malnourished children, who can be cured with RUTF in less than a month, on average. The only obstacle is price and MSF is lobbying both for price reductions and for the government and other NGOs to implement wider use of RUTF.
By the end of 2006, MSF had cared for over 73,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition - both severe and moderate - in two districts (Guidan Roumdji and Madarounfa) of Maradi province alone, most under the age of three and with a cure rate of over 90 percent. Over 17,000 children were treated in Zinder. MSF also ran nutritional projects in Dakoro and Aguié, Maradi district; and Madoua and Bouza in Tahoua district. In total MSF ran or supported over 30 feeding centers in Niger during the hunger gap and treated approximately 100,000 children for malnutrition.
Nutritional deficiencies are also associated with immune system impairment and increased risk of illnesses. MSF provides free healthcare for children in many project facilities. In coordination with the Ministry of Health in Guidan Roumdji and Madarounfa districts, MSF provided almost 130,000 medical consultations for ill children under age five and 4,500 children with severe illness were hospitalized in pediatric units in Maradi, Dan Issa and Tibiri. Between August and December, approximately 7,260 new cases per month were attended in health facilities supported by MSF in Tahoua. MSF also provided support to the pediatric department in Tahoua’s district hospital in 2006, treating 400 patients, and provided free healthcare for 9,600 patients through four health centers in Aguié district, Maradi province.
In March 2007, MSF began to support five health clinics in Dakoro as well as the Dakoro hospital. MSF is increasingly integrating nutrition into pediatric healthcare by monitoring, screening and treating malnutrition within the framework of regular healthcare. This allows the malnourished children to be identified early and allows for year-round monitoring.
MSF also responded to a number of disease outbreaks in Niger over 2006/2007. In September 2006, several cholera treatment centers were established in Maradi following an outbreak in several regions of the country. In 2007, MSF also assisted the MOH with vaccination campaigns in response to a meningitis epidemic in February, and a measles outbreak in March in Tahoua.
MSF has worked in Niger intermittently since 1985.