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MSF in Niger, 2011
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Despite major improvements in its response to malnutrition, Niger struggles with chronic nutrition crises and high rates of child mortality. Every year, Niger is affected by a nutrition crisis that peaks during the ‘hunger gap’, which normally falls between May and September. Although there were good harvests in 2010, the acute malnutrition rate among children in Niger was constantly around the 10 percent alert threshold.
Most of the emergency nutrition programs launched to respond to the 2010 crisis continued in 2011. The Ministry of Health collaborated with national and international organizations to treat some 300,000 children for severe acute malnutrition, and enrolled more than 650,000 at-risk children on supplementary feeding programs.
Insecurity and the risk of kidnapping affected relief organizations’ ability to reach some communities. However, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) improved accessibility to treatment by decentralizing care and delivering it at more sites. Working with local partners, MSF treated a total of 104,000 acutely malnourished children.
Since 2008, MSF and FORSANI (Forum Santé Niger), a medical association in Niger, have run a joint nutrition and pediatric program in Madarounfa, in the southern Maradi region. In 2011, the program provided outpatient treatment for severe malnutrition in five health centers. Severely malnourished children who were suffering medical complications, such as severe anemia or pneumonia, were admitted to a therapeutic feeding center.
MSF and FORSANI also began offering supplementary rations of milk-based food at all five centers to prevent severe malnutrition. A 2010 study by Epicentre, MSF’s epidemiological research unit, indicates that appropriate supplementary feeding could lower child mortality by 50 percent. From May, MSF and FORSANI supported the pediatric unit of Madarounfa district hospital, and staff had tended to more than 900 children by the end of the year.
During the annual malaria season, MSF and FORSANI treated 750 children for the disease at a 20-bed centre in Dan Issa, south of Madarounfa. When measles broke out early in the year, 14,000 children in the area were vaccinated.
In the departments of Dakoro and Guidan Roumdji, MSF carried out similar work, supporting the departmental hospitals. In Dakoro, staff worked in the maternity and pediatric departments, delivered sterilization and laboratory services and managed an emergency ambulance referral system.
In Guidan Roumdji, MSF provided medical supplies and drugs, as well as water and sanitation support. Staff worked in the pediatric ward and operated an intensive therapeutic feeding centre. Teams also ran nutrition programs at five health centers in Dakoro. In all, 76,500 consultations were conducted in Maradi, more than 44,000 of which were for malaria.
In the neighboring region of Zinder, MSF focused on children under five living in Zinder city – Niger’s second-largest city – and the surrounding areas. The teams have decentralized treatment, making medical care available via community health workers. They also carry out preventive and outreach activities, such as vaccinations and health screening, and provide information on health issues.
Staff worked in nutrition programs in 18 community health centers. Following a measles outbreak, 26,700 people were vaccinated against the disease. Staff also ran nutrition programs and carried out pediatric consultations in the city of Magaria, on the border with Nigeria.
Outside the city, MSF worked to strengthen services in health posts in Dan Tchao and Dungass. Altogether, MSF treated about 13,000 children for malaria, 11,000 for diarrhea and 9,000 for respiratory infections.
Tahoua and Agadez regions
In Tahoua, there were very high rates of malaria compared with previous years, and MSF treated more than 43,000 people for the disease. At the height of the epidemic, over 300 people suffering from both malnutrition and malaria were being registered each week.
MSF ran two nutrition programs in the Madoua and Bouza districts of south-central Tahoua. Agadez is located on a primary migration route for people trying to reach Europe. Vulnerable individuals in need of medical assistance regularly pass through the region. MSF focused on reproductive and pediatric healthcare for temporary residents and conducted nearly 4,500 consultations.
Between June and September, MSF helped to respond to a cholera outbreak in the capital Niamey. The team set up treatment centers, rehydration points and waste treatment systems. They also donated medicines and other supplies and trained Ministry of Health staff.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 1,705 staff in Niger. MSF has been working in the country since 1985.