Alarming results in Niger nutrition survey

© Anne Yzebe/MSF Click for larger view
The mortality rate in children under five has crossed the emergency threshold. According to a nutrition survey carried out at the end of April, one child in five is suffering from malnutrition in villages in the north of Maradi and Tahoua provinces. Teams have opened new feeding centres and MSF is worried about the lack of assistance provided to children suffering from moderate malnutrition. The results of the nutrition survey* that were carried out at the end of April in four districts in Niger confirm the gravity of the situation. One child out of five is suffering from malnutrition. The global acute malnutrition rate in children under five years old is 19,3% in villages in the north of Maradi province and 19,5% in villages in the north of Tahoua province. These children weigh 80% below the normal weight for their age, suffer from retarded development (height, speech, walking) and their fragile health means they are more exposed to diseases such as malaria or diarrhoea. Children under two and half years are the most vulnerable. One in three children aged under 29 months is suffering from malnutrition (28,5% in the region of Maradi and 28,2% in the region of Tahoua). "These are extremely high rates, especially in a rural setting in a politically stable country", explained Dr. Valérie Gaboulaud, an epidemiologist at Epicentre. © Anne Yzebe/MSF Click for larger view
High mortality rate A severely malnourished child will die if it does not receive rapid medical attention. The severe malnutrition rate in children under five (weight/height ratio under 70% of the norm) is 2,4% in the villages in the north of Maradi and 2,9% in the villages in the north of Tahoua. The mortality rate was already high in April - in excess of the emergency threshold. During the nutrition survey that covered 1,500 families, 67 mothers said they had lost a child under five in the last 100 days. This represents a mortality rate of 2.2 deaths/per 10,000 people/per day in villages in the north of Maradi and 2.4/10,000/day in villages in the north of Tahoua. The emergency mortality threshold for children under five is 2/10,000/day. Three, soon four, therapeutic feeding centres From January to May MSF has treated approximately 5,000 children for severe malnutrition, twice the number children we treated during the same period last year. The number of admissions is increasing rapidly: we registered 100-200 admissions per week in the district of Maradi between January and March, 200-300 from the beginning of March to the end of April, 300-400 until mid-May and 400 a week since. © Anne Yzebe/MSF Click for larger view
The opening of a second MSF therapeutic feeding centre at the end of April, in Dakoro, has allowed more children to be treated. Our teams have also opened a therapeutic feeding centre in Keita, in the region of Tahoua, where 42 cases of severe malnutrition were treated within the first week. This figure has tripled in three weeks. A fourth feeding centre opened in Tahoua at the beginning of June. Over 20 ambulatory therapeutic feeding centres carry out screening and the treatment of children suffering from severe malnutrition that do not require hospitalisation. Once a week, in a village near their home, these children come for a medical examination and receive food supplements. Food distributions in the programme In mid-May MSF started distributing food ration to families of children in the programmes. The rations contain enough food to feed a family of eight for a week. When a child leaves the feeding programme, we give his/her family enough food for a month. A cargo plane carrying 120 tonnes of enriched flour arrived mid-April. In addition, 150 tonnes of millet, 75 tonnes of beans and a dozen tonnes of oil were purchased locally - a further 480 tonnes of supplies will be arriving soon by cargo ship. The response is not enough In the coming weeks, until October, children suffering from moderate malnutrition risk severe malnutrition if they do not have better access to food and healthcare. The period from June to September is particularly critical: families are coming to the end of their food (millet) reserves and have no money left to buy supplies - this is also the rainy season when mosquitoes that transmit malaria are rife. Malnutrition combined with disease mean that children are rapidly in danger. The cost of healthcare and medicines, as well as the lack of free food distributions in the most affected regions, aggravate the situation further. The means deployed to respond to this crisis are still inadequate. MSF is particularly worried about the risks for children suffering from malnutrition. * At the end of April MSF had visited over 1,500 families representatives of a population of 373,000 people, in 60 villages in the districts of Dakoro, Mayahi,Tessaoua (Maradi province) and Keita (Tahoua province).