|© UNICEF Niger/2005/Page|
|Hadjara with her 5-month-old son Lawali at a therapeutic feeding centre in Aguie, Niger. In addition to therapeutic foods, UNICEF is supplying the centres with essential drugs, weighing scales and growth monitoring boards.|
By Kent Page
AGUIE, Niger, 10 August 2005 – “My son’s name is Lawali,” says 30-year old Hadjara. “He’s five months old. He’s still very weak, but I think he’s getting better. His eyes follow me around now.”
Lawali is snuggled in his mother’s lap in a colourful cloth wrap to keep his tiny body warm. Hadjara sits on a thin mat on the floor of a therapeutic feeding centre in Aguie village, in the Maradi region of Niger – hit hard by the current food crisis.
Hadjara is spoon-feeding her son with nutritious therapeutic milk, supplied by UNICEF. Lawali swallows each spoonful of milk with a small gulp, and as with all babies, some of it trickles down his chin. Therapeutic milk is rich in nutrients and is easy to digest for children like Lawali.
Born in the midst of crisis
Hadjara brought Lawali to this therapeutic feeding centre about two weeks ago. “He was so weak, he seemed almost dead,” she says. “He’s always been weak, not like my other children.”
Lawali was born in March 2005; Niger was already in crisis. Hadjara and thousands of other mothers like her are among those most impacted by the elements of the crisis: food shortages, insufficient availability of essential health services, and lack of vital information on child feeding and nutrition.
Hadjara’s husband leaves Niger during the dry season (October to May) to look for work elsewhere. “I gave birth to Lawali when my husband was away and did my best to take care of him,” says Hadjara. “But I didn’t have enough to eat myself or to feed my children.”
“When my husband came back, he told me to take Lawali to the traditional healer, but that didn’t work. He just got weaker. Then my husband told me to bring him here.”
The road to recovery
Working closely with its partners on the ground, UNICEF Niger has provided over 41 tons of therapeutic milk, 6.7 tons of therapeutic food and 190 tons of UNIMIX – a life-saving porridge easy for undernourished children to digest. These items have been distributed across Niger to help children in 10 fixed therapeutic feeding centres and 21 outreach therapeutic centres.
UNICEF is working in collaboration with the Government of Niger, UN agencies and non-governmental partners to treat children with severe and moderate under-nutrition, to promote improved child feeding practices, and to reduce the effects of household food insecurity.
In collaboration with the World Food Programme, 187 tons of corn-soy blend, and 614 tons of cereals have been delivered to 62 affected villages, benefiting an estimated 200,000 persons, including 40,000 children under five. 900 additional tons of cereals are being delivered to 90 additional villages and 6 tons of seeds (corn, wheat and potato), have also been distributed.
Today, Lawali is enjoying both his mother’s breast milk and a carefully monitored diet of therapeutic milk. Health workers are confident about his recovery and so is Hadjara. “See how he watches me?” she says, refilling the spoon.