Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali share a border region in the Central Sahel where state and non-state groups operate in a context of poverty, climatic change, a fast-growing population and increasing competition over dwindling resources.
The southeast of Niger forms part of the Lake Chad Basin, where violence that began in Nigeria in 2009 has spread. This area was already extremely vulnerable due to social inequality, poverty, poor infrastructure and recurring drought.
We run health programmes throughout Niger. In 2020, responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Niger has made remarkable progress in reducing mortality for children under five over the past decade. However, malnutrition and malaria – the main causes of childhood death – remain rife. We run targeted paediatric programmes, support community health workers and boost the capacity of public facilities, particularly during the 'hunger gap' between harvests, which coincides with the rainy season and malaria peak.
MSF supports community health workers in hundreds of villages throughout Niger. The community health workers are especially active during the peak malaria season and ensure early detection and treatment of simple malaria and screening for malnutrition.
Since 2015, people living in Diffa region, in the Lake Chad Basin, suffer the consequences of violent clashes between armed opposition groups in neighbouring Nigeria and the military forces in the region. We provide medical and mental health care for displaced communities at numerous health facilities in the region and run mobile clinics in hard-to-reach areas. In Agadez, in the north of Niger, we support local communities and migrants along the main migratory routes.
We are also at the frontlines of the responses to outbreaks in Niger. We hold annual vaccination campaigns against measles and meningitis if needed, and we respond to cholera outbreaks.
In Niger, we are supporting various healthcare centres and providing basic and specialised care to host and refugee communities, mainly in Tillabéri region. We are also running mobile clinics to provide medical and mental health consultations and distribute essential household items to refugees.
Major malnutrition peak in Maradi region
Every year from July to October, the combination of the hunger gap and rainy season triggers a spike in the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition and malaria in southern Niger.
This year, several factors could lead to an exceptionally severe seasonal peak amid dwindling donor funding dedicated to nutritional and paediatric programmes in the area.
Our activities in 2020 in Niger
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2020.
In the capital, Niamey, the city with the most cases, MSF built a treatment centre to care for patients in the first months of the pandemic. We also supported the COVID-19 call centre in Niamey and some health facilities in other major cities.
From June, heavy rains fell, submerging the most impoverished districts of the capital and several parts of Maradi, Tahoua, and Tillabéri. In Niamey, we supplied drinking water and set up mobile clinics to assist people displaced by the floods. In addition, we distributed relief items and provided psychological support in the hardest-hit areas of the city.
In Diffa, Maradi, Magaria, and Tillabéri, our teams treated more patients with malaria than in 2019, mainly due to the shortage of antimalarial medicines and a lack of access to healthcare, both due to the COVID-19 crisis. The early onset of the rainy season also resulted in increased transmission of the disease.
From October to December, we supported a regional hospital in Niamey to improve care for children under the age of 15 by increasing its inpatient capacity, training staff and donating drugs. We also maintained our support to the Ministry of Public Health by boosting inpatient capacity for the treatment of acutely malnourished children in Madarounfa and Magaria. Our teams are developing preventive and community-based approaches to reduce the number of patients with complications from malnutrition; for example, by providing early treatment for malaria, acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea.
Despite the closure of the border during the pandemic, the systematic and illegal expulsion of migrants from Algeria to Niger continued in 2020. MSF teams in Agadez donated essential healthcare supplies, gave psychosocial support, and ran search and rescue operations for migrants lost or abandoned in the desert.
Throughout the year, our teams assisted host communities and displaced people affected by violence in Tillabéri and Diffa regions by offering healthcare and distributing relief items. We also asked the relevant authorities to ensure the protection of civilians and improve assistance to them.