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In Niger, Government and partners unite to prevent malnutrition among children below the age of two

Joint UNICEF and WFP Press release

Koléram, Niger, 28 April 2010 – Today, in Koleram, a village in the region of Zinder, some 800 children aged 6-23 months have received the first of a series of 4 monthly rations of supplementary food.

Today’s distribution by the Nigerien NGO Karkara marks the launch of a blanket feeding operation which will provide 500,000 children between May and August 2010 with complementary food, regardless of their nutritional status.

The aim is to prevent the nutritional status of children aged 6-23 months, who are most vulnerable to food shortages in times preceding harvest in October, from deteriorating.

The Minister of Public Health, Pr Nouhou Hassan, officially launched the blanket feeding operation, with the World Food Programme and UNICEF Country Directors, as well as Zinder local authorities.

This operation, supported by WFP and UNICEF and 13 NGOs, is part of the Government’s Response Plan and the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan that were launched following the Government’s appeal on March 10.

"The 500.000 children targeted are in areas found to have global acute malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold of 15% (as defined by WHO) during the June/July 2009 Nutrition and Child Survival Survey, and in areas identified during the last national rapid survey as food insecure."explains Hassan.

All regions of Niger, except Niamey, will benefit from general supplementary food distribution in 2010, to reduce malnutrition peaks in a country where one child out of two suffers from stunting.

"Children are the first to suffer from climatic shocks, a situation we are witnessing today: more and more children are being admitted into therapeutic feeding centers, says Guido Cornale, UNICEF Country Director in Niger.

"To prevent their health from deteriorating, UNICEF supports the training of census takers, community mobilization and awareness-raising as well as malnutrition screening in children. These prevention activities are crucial in tackling the situation and ensuring the success of the blanket feeding operation."

The Nutrition Directorate of the Ministry of Public Health, along with local authorities, coordinates the implementation of the blanket feeding.

A child’s monthly ration of complementary food includes 8.3 kilos of fortified corn soy blend (CSB+) with sugar and 0.75 KG of oil enriched with vitamin A.

A total of 17.700 MT of food, provided by WFP, is necessary to feed 500.000 children. "The tight timeframe for the mobilization of resources, procurement and dispatching of food for this activity was a challenge", states Richard Verbeeck, WFP Country Director in Niger.

"The needed quantities of food were available only at international level, and Niger being a landlocked country, two to three months were necessary for them to arrive. WFP had to leverage funds as early as March to ensure timely implementation".

 As the ration is not ready to use, the populations receive explanations on its preparation (how to mix the food and in what proportions), the use and preservation of the porridge.

Following erratic rainfall in 2009, more than half of the population of Niger is considered as food insecure with 3.4 million people needing immediate help.

Rates for global acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition are 12.3% and 2.1% respectively, according to the latest Nutrition and Child Survival Survey.

For more information please contact:
Anne Boher, UNICEF Niger, Tel: +227 96 96 21 59, email:aboher@unicef.org, Aline Samu, PAM Niger – Tel : +227 97 53 90 65, aline.samu@wfp.org

 

 
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