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At a glance: Niger

Food shortages hit children in Niger

A girl from the nomadic Peul Bororo ethnic group squats near a pot cooking on a smoky fire, in the village of Kehene, Niger.

By Jane O’Brien

NEW YORK, 2 June 2005 – Hundreds of thousands of children in Niger are facing serious malnutrition because of food shortages. Swarms of locusts consumed the bulk of last year’s crops and livestock died from hunger and thirst because drought dried up pastureland.

Some 40 per cent of Niger’s children were already suffering from moderate or severe stunting (one of the key indicators of poor nutrition) even before the current crisis. UNICEF Representative in Niger Karim Adjibade says the number now needing immediate help has trebled.

“Children are dying. Malnutrition is not the only reason but it is a contribution. These children have malaria and other diseases, and malnutrition is coming on top of that. At the therapeutic feeding centres we are seeing two or three children dying every week.”

Two women from the nomadic Peul Bororo ethnic group pound millet in a wooden mortar using long wooden pestles, in the village of Kehene, Niger.

UNICEF has joined a UN appeal for $16.2 million. UNICEF needs more than $1 million to buy cereal and fortified food supplements for children. The organization is also showing communities how to spot the early signs of malnutrition and take preventative measures.

“We are teaching communities how to see the signs of malnutrition among children and how to make better meals and give supplements. We are also helping them to generate income so that they can have better access to food,” says Mr. Adjibade.

Around a quarter of all children in Niger die before the age of five. The infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. It is thought that 150,000 young children are now suffering from severe malnutrition and a further 650,000 have become extremely vulnerable.

Families in Niger live from year to year relying on the next harvest for survival. One poor season can throw the country into crisis and the situation will get even worse this year if there is another drought or locust invasion.




2 June 2005:
Food shortages in Niger hit children hardest

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