A vast, arid state on the edge of the Sahara, Niger endured austere military rule for much of its post-independence history and is rated by the UN as one of the world's least-developed nations.
MSF in Niger 2014
The drought-prone country – with a population of just over 18 million – sometimes struggles to feed its people. Its main export, uranium, is prone to price fluctuations and agriculture is threatened by the encroaching desert.
As such, Niger is affected by child malnutrition rates of epidemic proportions – peaking during the ‘hunger gap’, a period between harvests in May and September when household food stocks become depleted and are insufficient to meet nutritional needs.
The hunger gap coincides with the rainy season and a proliferation of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, a lethal combination for young children: a malnourished child is more vulnerable to diseases such as malaria and a sick child is more likely to become malnourished.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Niger in 1985.
Issa Kadri, Doney's village chief, who helped to organise the Mamans Lumieres (mothers of light) project, empowering women to cook nutritious food in Doney. In the programme, families take responsibility for improving the nutritional condition of children who are at risk of suffering acute malnutrition.
“There are fewer and fewer children suffering serious malnutrition. Before, our women travelled many kilometres to take their sick children to Madaoua, and they would even have to sell their seed reserves to cover their transport costs. Things have changed now thanks to this programme.
“This strategy has allowed our women to come together to control their own fate and that of our children. The strategy is easy in practice, because it adapts to our reality.”
Côme Niyomgabo, 40, an MSF project coordinator from Burundi, who worked to reduce child mortality in Bouza, in the Tahoua region in Niger.
“We have just lived through the most difficult time of the year: the ‘hunger gap’ and a high prevalence of malaria due to the rainy season. The time interval between June and October is a critical period for young children. Since the beginning of November, the number of children being admitted has decreased: the most difficult period is about to end.
“However, it is a chronic crisis coming back year after year after year, which is the reason why we are already getting ready for the next peak. Based on our experience, we know that anticipation is an important factor; we need a well-trained team ready to intervene.
“In Bouza, a very rural area, the lack of qualified human resources poses a real challenge, as does access to health facilities. Villages are often remote and during the rainy season roads are usually impracticable.”
MSF’s work in Niger: 2014
In 2014, MSF continued to improve and expand integrated health programmes to reduce child suffering and death in Niger.
In 2014, MSF continued a programme of medical and nutritional care for children under the age of five in Magaria, Zinder. More than 65,000 children were targeted for Plumpy’Doz (supplementary food) distributions.
In the Maradi region, we work in Madarounfa and Guidan Roumdji. In 2014, we:
- Screened 137,000 children for malnutrition and admitted 14,500 for treatment
- Provided 54,400 vaccinations
- Treated 125,800 children in outpatient facilities and admitted 10,000 for treatment
- Treated 9,300 paediatric cases of malaria and provided seasonal malaria chemoprevention to over 67,000 children between three and 59 months
- Distributed 7,850 mosquito nets.
In the Tahoua region, we work in Madaoua district and Bouza district. In 2014, we:
- Treated 237,000 children during our seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign
- Admitted 4,800 children into inpatient programmes for acute malnutrition and treated 13,660 as outpatients
- Provided 2,000 psychological consultations, supporting mothers and children to ensure healthy development and recovery from malnutrition
- Began working with children with HIV and tuberculosis and trained hospital staff on HIV with the aim of reducing stigmatisation
Helping refugees from Nigeria
The violent activity of Boko haram in Borno state, Nigeria, caused people to flee their villages and cross into neighbouring countries, including the Diffa region of southeastern Niger.
Responding to the influx of refugees, mainly women, children and elderly people, we began supporting health centres in N’Garwa and Gueskerou at the beginning of December, providing free access to healthcare and distributing relief kits to new arrivals.
In September of 2014, we treated 1,000 patietns for cholera in Tamaske, Madaoua, Bouza, Tahoua, Maradi and Madarounfa with the help of the Ministry of Health.
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 1,886 staff working in Niger. MSF first worked in the country in 1985.