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Niger: Inoussa's path to recover from severe malnutrition


Zinder, Niger, 8 June 2010 - There’s a family gathering at the nutrition rehabilitation centre of Zinder, Niger. The doctor is showing Inoussa’s parents snap shots of children who have left the centre having been restored to health. 

They now have to work together to get 13 month old Inoussa fit after he was brought in suffering from severe malnutrition.

Inoussa is the youngest child in a family that has a total of six children. His mother Memonna is the second wife of a motorcycle mechanic and at first she thought Inoussa’s symptoms were because his teeth were coming through.

But diarrhoea persisted and Inoussa kept having temperature. He also suffered other symptoms. 

Two months before he arrived at the centre , he was running on all fours behind his brothers and sisters. At 13 months, he was  lively and curious but then he stopped tottering because his legs became too thin to sustain his weight.

Access to health care
Mémonna brought him to the intensive nutrition centre because she had heard that medical care was free and that children who stayed there were often able to come out and resume normal life within days or weeks. “I used to rely on traditional medicine, but it is very expansive and it does not work very often” says Mémonna.

In Niger, after the 2005 crisis, the Government decided that children under five years old would have free access to health care.

The country has some of the worse indicators on global poverty and child mortality, and malnutrition rates have been above alert thresholds for a decade.

Children under 2 are the most affected by severe malnutrition which is associated to 50 per cent of child deaths in this age group.

The country is currently experiencing a major food crisis caused by a persistent and severe drought. In the current period known as the ‘hunger gap’ UNICEF expects to have to deal with 378,000 children like Inoussa in Niger and 859,000 across the whole Sahelian region.   

On a path to recovery
When the other wife in the family came to visit Mémonna and Inoussa, she brought food. She was relieved to learn that everything was alright and when the father arrived they listened as he answered their questions.

Inoussa is still weak. He is receiving drugs to treat his diarrhoea, and therapeutic food that he enjoys eating. Slowly but surely, Inoussa is recovering.

The doctor says Inoussa’s picture should be on the board within a few days even though treatment will have to continue at home. Memonna can hope that Inoussa will grow and join his siblings at school. ‘Who knows,’ she says, ‘one day he may become a doctor himself.’ 

By Anne Fouchard



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