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At a glance: Niger

Niger crisis: Food aid is reaching children

© UNICEF Video
It is estimated that 32,000 children in Niger are currently severely undernourished.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 8 August 2005 – More than a week after pictures of starving children in Niger shocked the world into action, relief supplies are reaching their destination, but more needs to be done to get children out of danger.

“We thank all the donors that food is arriving, but there are still 32,000 children facing the threat of malnourishment. We have to save these children,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah after returning from Niger on the weekend.

While its initial appeals for money to avert the disaster fell on deaf ears, UNICEF programmes in Niger are now almost fully funded. The organization has received nearly $15 million to help care for nearly 200,000 children (32,000 are severely undernourished, and approximately 160,000 are moderately undernourished).

© UNICEF Video
Children in Maradi, the epicentre of Niger's food crisis.

Touring emergency feeding centres in Maradi, Niger, with Canada’s International Cooperation Minister Aileen Carroll, Ms. Salah had the chance to see the suffering firsthand.

“We were at the hospital of Médecins Sans Frontières where they receive the severely malnourished children and we saw a child die in front of us...I think we should all feel guilty because children cannot die now at this time and age when we have technology and resources,” a shocked Ms. Salah told reporters in Niger.

UNICEF’s action on the ground

Working closely with its partners on the ground, UNICEF Niger has provided 41 tons of therapeutic milk, 6.7 tons of 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 Video
Mothers and children at the Médecins Sans Frontières feeding centre in Maradi, Niger.

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 people, including 40,000 children under five. In addition, about 900 tons of cereals are being delivered to another 90 villages, and approximately 6 tons of seed (corn, wheat, potato) have also been provided.

To empower the local communities, UNICEF is supporting the creation of cereal banks and helping train health workers. Education about nutrition and how to deal with shortages have also been carried out among local villages.

As famine threatens to spread through the region, neighbouring countries including Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso are also at risk of serious food shortages.

“We need to fight poverty, we need to build an early warning system, and we need to empower the government and the local communities, so that we can prevent this from happening next year,” said Ms. Salah.




8 August 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Dan Thomas reports on the massive relief effort to save thousands of severely undernourished children in Niger.

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5 August 2005:
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah discusses her visit to Niger.
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