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MSF in Niger, 2007
Field Staff: 1278
Reason for Intervention:
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Acute child malnutrition is a serious medical issue that has not been adequately addressed in Niger despite increased national and international attention since the massive nutritional crisis of 2005. An annual ‘hunger gap’ exists between April and September, when family food stocks run out and hundreds of thousands of children have little access to food or the nutrients they need for healthy development. Malnutrition reduces immunity, stunts growth, affects brain development and can be fatal.
Child malnutrition is most severe in the regions of Diffa, Zinder and Maradi, where low weight and stunted growth affect 41 per cent of children living in poor households and just over 32 per cent of those in wealthier households.
Following a nutritional survey in Dakoro district, Maradi, MSF began a medical-nutritional program in April, supporting seven integrated health centers to provide free care for children aged five and younger. MSF also supports the maternal health service, pediatric service, emergency obstetric surgery and maternity activities of the Dakoro district hospital. A total of 133,000 consultations were undertaken during the year.
In June, with high numbers of children from Aguie and Tessahoua arriving at existing health centers, a five-month emergency intervention was launched in Aguie. MSF provided support to the district hospital and ran the nutritional rehabilitation center during the hunger gap, eventually handing over activities to Save the Children UK. In total, 1,102 children were admitted to the hospital, 925 for severe malnutrition.
In Tahoua district, MSF worked in two hospitals and six health centers, providing nutritional support and over 5,000 free monthly consultations for illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea, respiratory and skin infections. Approximately 1,200 malnourished children were treated every month.
In Zinder, almost a million packets of RUFs were consumed and MSF treated 21,542 children. MSF is working in two intensive nutrition centers in Magaria and Zinder and in 13 mobile centers.
Using RUFs to prevent acute malnutrition
At the end of 2006, MSF research showed that more than half of children under the age of three developed an episode of acute malnutrition in two districts in Maradi. MSF therefore implemented a new approach aimed at preventing acute severe malnutrition and reducing the death toll linked to malnutrition. The new approach involved distribution of supplemental Ready-to-use foods (RUFs) to all children under three at risk in the area. Such RUFs does not replace regular meals but compensates for major deficiencies in diet by providing a child’s daily nutrient needs. MSF distributed supplemental RUFs monthly to all 62,000 children aged from six months to three years in one district in Maradi during the seasonal hunger gap.
MSF has worked intermittently in Niger since 1985.