How MSF is fighting COVID-19 in Niger
COVID-19 remains active in Niamey as well as in all other major cities of the country. MSF is supporting with logistics and human resources in Lamorde hospital in Niamey, where people with moderate cases are treated.
We are also supporting health centers in Magaria and Tillaberi with water and sanitation activities, distributing masks, organizing the triage of patients, and helping the investigation and response team. We are continuing epidemiological surveillance and undertaking community awareness. For Diffa and Agadez, we treat patients in our facilities.
Learn more about how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in Niger.
In Niger, the situation became increasingly unstable and violent in 2019, leading to further population displacements, particularly in the Lake Chad area.
Every week, hundreds of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers journey across Niger. Many of them have been forcibly expelled from Algeria. In southern Niger, civilians experience a spike in malnutrition and malaria caused by the rainy season and “hunger gap” – the period after stored food from the previous harvest has run out but the next is not ready.
Delivering health care in conflict areas
In 2019, there were numerous attacks and incursions in Diffa, the southeastern region bordering Nigeria. These often involved killings and kidnappings, and caused thousands of people to flee their homes, particularly in Diffa and Nguigmi departments. Learn how you can best help in Niger and other countries.
In response to the increased needs in Diffa, we ran mobile clinics and expanded our nutrition activities at Nguigmi hospital and two specialized health centers. We also provided technical assistance to outpatient feeding centers treating severely malnourished children. Another focus of our work was the district hospital, where we supported the opening of an operating theatre.
On 26 April 2019, unidentified armed men attacked our office in Mainé-Soroa in Diffa. One staff member was slightly injured, four vehicles were set on fire and the premises were damaged. As we could not ensure the safety of our staff and patients, we decided to cease activities in June. The project, opened in July 2017, offered medical care to people both in Diffa and across the border in Nigeria.
In Tillabéri region, which shares borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, we worked to increase the availability of free health care for vulnerable and displaced people, refugees and local communities affected by the conflict by deploying mobile clinics to remote and inaccessible areas, administering vaccinations, and screening for malnutrition.
During the year, our teams in Ayorou rural commune carried out 12,400 consultations through health centers in Koutougou and Ayorou and mobile clinics deployed to displacement camps in Kongokiré and Igagalan.
Following the almost daily attacks perpetrated by armed groups, the government declared a state of emergency covering Tillabéri and Diffa regions, and obliged humanitarian workers to use armed escorts. This had a serious impact on our activities and further reduced people’s access to health care and other public services.
Increasing assistance for displaced people
Niger is a major transit country for migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees expelled from Algeria, returned from Libya or traveling north to Europe. These people are often victims of abuse and social exclusion.
In 2019, in Agadez region, we scaled up our activities to assist migrants who had been turned back at the border village of Assamaka and internal migrants working in the mining sites at Tabelot in Dirkou, as well as vulnerable host communities.
In Dirkou, we set up a search and rescue system for migrants lost/abandoned in the desert and a telephone hotline for migrants to call for assistance, and conducted search and rescue operations in Ténéré desert and Kawar.
Addressing the annual malnutrition and malaria peak
Each year between July and October, food shortages and heavy rains trigger a spike in malnutrition and malaria in Niger, especially in the southern regions.
Although remarkable progress has been made in the prevention and treatment of childhood diseases in Niger over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of children fall victim to this chronic emergency each year. Recently, violence and growing insecurity in Niger and neighboring countries have put an additional strain on the health system.
In 2019, MSF collaborated with the Ministry of Public Health to treat 191,400 children for malaria and 43,400 cases of malnutrition in Madaoua, Madarounfa, and Magaria. Most of the children who required inpatient care were admitted in July and August 2019, the start of the seasonal peak.
Every year, to cope with the influx of patients, many of whom are in a critical condition, we increase our hospital capacity. In 2019, we admitted more than 15,300 children under the age of five – an average of 42 a day – to Magaria district hospital’s pediatric unit, and during the peak, we admitted 46 children to intensive care each day. We also provided care for over 17,000 children admitted to Madarounfa hospital’s pediatric wards and intensive feeding center. Please donate to support our work in Niger and other countries around the world now.
To reduce the number of patients with complications, we continue to focus on developing preventive and decentralized approaches. In Madarounfa, we have extended our activities from reinforcement during the peak period to year-round support to facilitate timely access to health care for children under the age of five. Community health workers worked throughout the year to test and treat simple cases of malaria, carry out nutritional screening and manage simple diarrhea in children in their villages.
This strategy of decentralization was mainly implemented to reduce the number of admissions to health facilities and prevent children from dying at home in their villages because no medical care is available. If sick children receive early care in their communities, their symptoms can be prevented from worsening and they are cured faster.
We also strengthened our community approach in Magaria, for example by providing early treatment for malaria, acute respiratory infections and diarrhea. Our teams opened 30 malaria treatment sites during the peak period.
Responding to disease outbreaks and other emergencies
We continued to support the health authorities with vaccinations, epidemiological surveillance, and emergency interventions to tackle disease outbreaks and other emergencies, including floods and mass displacements across Niger.
In 2019, our Sahel Mobile Emergency Team (Équipe Mobile d’Urgence Sahel, or EMUSA) focused on assisting displaced people, refugees and vulnerable local communities in conflict zones in Tillabéri and Diffa regions. The team also provided medical and humanitarian assistance following flooding, particularly in Kirkissoy, Agadez, Niamey and Bouza health districts, and in Diffa region.
In 2019, EMUSA and other regular projects also supported the Ministry of Health to run measles vaccination campaigns in four health districts, one in Niamey and three in Maradi region, which reached more than 354,200 children. In addition, EMUSA vaccinated 41,800 children in Madaoua and 5,060 in Dirkou against the disease.
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