Roumanatou, focal point for the baby ward, loves saving lives
Zinder, Niger, 6 August, 2010 - 27 year old Roumanatou loves her job: she is the focal point in the ‘baby ward’ of the intensive therapeutic centre in Zinder.
"Everybody likes working here, because it is so great to see babies no bigger than a fist recovering and becoming like all the babies of the world should be – joyful and lively."
Born to a mother who raised 10 other children, Roumanatou chose to become a nurse while she was at primary school. "I like saving lives", she says simply, to explain what she finds so satisfactory about her work in the CRENI.
"In 2005, we did not know what we were doing. We saw ‘shrimps’ arriving, children in a disastrous state, and it was hard to save them. We learnt from the past and today, we save children hardly weighing more than a kilo; we achieve miracles."
And, indeed, things have changed since 2005 and the terrible crisis which killed so many children around in Niger. Even though the food crisis is worse this year than it was in 2005, now there are over 20 NGOs, UN agencies and a committed government to fight against malnutrition.
New tools – ready-to-use therapeutic foods and new outpatient facilities to treat severe malnutrition - have proved effective. Roumanatou began to work at nutrition centres in 2005.
At first, she was in a CRENAS that treated severely malnourished children who do not need heavy medical treatment.
She joined the CRENI and the baby ward two years ago. The work is tough, nevertheless, and she never knows for sure when she will return home in the evening. "When we are looking after a child, or when there are many children coming, we can work around the clock."
She works from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm, with a one hour break for lunch. She has two children, a five-year-old girl and one-year-old little boy and, between her salary and the income of her husband, who is a trader, they are able to meet household financial needs.
"But, just like everybody else, we wonder what the future here will bring" she says. This year in Niger, 7.1 million people are food insecure. 384,000 children under five years old will need life-saving treatment in a CRENAS or CRENI.
Each night since March this year Roumanatou has returned home late when the sky is dark. Her children by then have usually eaten and are safely asleep.
By Anne Fouchard