Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali share a border region in the central Sahel where state and non-state groups operate against a backdrop of high levels of poverty, climate change, rapid population growth, and increased competition for dwindling resources.
Southeastern Niger is part of the Lake Chad Basin, where violence that began in Nigeria in 2009 spread. The region was already extremely vulnerable due to social inequalities, poverty, poor infrastructure and recurrent droughts. MSF runs health programmes throughout Niger.
Niger has made remarkable progress in reducing under-five mortality over the past decade, but malnutrition and malaria – the leading causes of death among children – remain widespread. We conduct targeted paediatric programmes, support community health workers, and build the capacity of public facilities, especially during the ‘lean season’ between harvests, which coincides with the rainy season and the peak of malaria.
MSF supports community health workers in more than 40 villages in the Maradi region, representing hundreds of villages throughout Niger. Community health workers are particularly active during the peak malaria season and provide early detection and treatment of uncomplicated malaria as well as screening for malnutrition. The recent increase in health promotion and community activities in the region has resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in admissions for severe and complicated malaria cases in the health facilities we support.
Despite the closure of borders due to COVID-19 and the anti-migration law, the flow of migrants has not decreased in Assamaka, in northern Niger. On the contrary, many migrants continue to use the desert passageways, hoping to reach Europe via Algeria and Morocco. But many do not make it across this line. They are arrested, tortured, stripped and deported with military force by Algerian guards close to the border at Assamaka. In this remote desert, our teams run activities to support abandoned and lost people on the move.
In Niger, we support various health centres and provide general and specialised care to host and refugee communities, mainly in the Tillabéri region. We also organise mobile clinics to provide medical and mental health consultations and distribute essential household items to refugees. Due to limited access to healthcare and intensified violence in northwestern Nigeria, we are also seeing an increasing number of sick and malnourished children from Nigeria in MSF-supported facilities in the Maradi region.
Treating severely malnourished children in Madarounfa
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. Follow our teams through our hospital in Madarounfa where we treat severely malnourished children with emergency care.
Our activities in 2021 in Niger
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2021.
In Zinder and Maradi regions, the combination of an early malaria peak and a poor agricultural season led to a significant increase in the number of children needing care. We also saw an unprecedented number of severely malnourished children coming across the border from Nigeria.
In Maradi, we tripled our intake capacity by launching two new emergency nutrition projects through inpatient and outpatient care in Aguie and Guidam Roumjdi districts, and stepped-up activities, including intensive therapeutic feeding and paediatric care, in Madarounfa district.
The security situation in Tillabéri region, which borders Mali and Burkina Faso, deteriorated in 2021. A spate of attacks on civilians led the region into a state of violence and internal displacement. To respond to the increased needs in Torodi, Banibangou and Ayorou districts, MSF recruited extra medical staff, conducted mobile clinics, rehabilitated the emergency unit and built a blood bank, an observation unit, and sterilisation and mental health consultation rooms.
In Diffa region, we ran community consultations to help reduce the workload on hospitals during malaria season, provided paediatric and obstetric care, mental health support and treatment for sexual violence.
The flow of migrants expelled from Algeria, in unofficial convoys arriving in Assamaka, did not decrease, despite tough anti-migration policies and border closures due to COVID-19. A toll-free number set up for migrants in transit continues to receive calls, and enables MSF teams to rescue migrants who have been tortured and dumped in the desert.
Throughout 2021, MSF supported the health authorities’ responses to epidemics and floods, and vaccination campaigns against measles, meningitis, cholera and polio.