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UNICEF Warns Malnutrition on Rise for Niger’s Children

Funding shortages may prevent adequate response

NIAMEY, May 12 2006 - Several reports reveal that the number of malnourished children arriving at UNICEF-supported nutritional rehabilitation centres is increasing.  Between 1 January and 4 May 2006, 64,593 malnourished children have been admitted in the nutritional rehabilitation programmes, of which 53,931 were suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and 10,662 from severe acute malnutrition.

“The situation requires not only the extreme vigilance and the continuous mobilization of all partners in the field but the firm commitment of the donor community, so that we can prevent the deterioration of the situation,” says UNICEF Representative in Niger Aboudou Karimou Adjibade.  “To respond to the nutrition crisis that the children of Niger are facing, a sustainable effort is needed.” 

There is an 85 per cent shortfall in the emergency appeal launched by the United Nations for the Sahel region at the end of March and UNICEF is still seeking US$2.9 million to provide much-needed assistance to the children of Niger. 

While the 2005 harvest brought a short respite to the most vulnerable families, they are still trying to pay off heavy debts incurred last year to cope with food shortages.  On the onset of the lean season between May and September, family food stocks are at their lowest.  A joint Government of Niger/WFP/FAO/FEWS Net assessment concluded last November that more than 1.8 million people, including 380,000 children under five, will face food insecurity during 2006. 

Niger is facing a structural nutritional crisis with acute malnutrition rates above emergency thresholds in many parts of the country. A nutritional survey conducted by UNICEF, the US Centre for Disease Control and the Government of Niger in September 2005 confirmed that 15.3 per cent of children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition and that one out of two children suffer from chronic malnutrition. 

To address the situation, UNICEF supports the Government of Niger and more than 20 national and international NGOs in operating nutritional rehabilitation programmes to treat malnourished children.   Since January 2006, UNICEF has:

• Distributed 895 tons of UNIMIX, six tons of therapeutic milk and 104 tons of Plumpy’nut to almost 58,231 malnourished children in more than 800 nutritional rehabilitation centres and screening sites;

• Provided training to more than 130 health agents in nutritional rehabilitation and 265 community-based teams are being supported in villages to screen children, advise feeding practices and refer malnourished children to therapeutic centres;

• Trained early warning system committees and provided equipment and technical assistance to improve the collection and analysis of nutritional data allowing malnutrition to become a central element of the national early warning system. 

UNICEF is also protecting the health of mothers and young children by providing vitamin A and micronutrient supplementation.  UNICEF and its partners expect to treat 500,000 malnourished children under the age of five during 2006.  In addition, 240,000 children under three years of age will receive supplementary feeding in cooperation with WFP and NGO partners during the lean season.

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About UNICEF
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Natalie Fol, UNICEF Niger Tel:+ 227 72 2840/41 ext.406, Email: nfol@unicef.org  

Gaëlle Bausson, UNICEF Niger Tel:+ 227 72 2840/41 ext.438, Email: gbausson@unicef.org


 

 

 

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