NIAMEY – The nutritional situation of children in Niger has deteriorated considerably in the last 12 months, according to the results of the annual survey on child nutrition publicly released this Thursday. The World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF urge the international community to mobilize all necessary resources to enable them to protect and heal suffering children.
The global acute malnutrition rate in Niger reaches 16.7 per cent for children aged less than five, a level far above the 15 per cent warning threshold and the 12.3 per cent rate estimated in 2009. In certain regions, such as Diffa and Maradi, the rates reach, respectively, 22.1 per cent and 19.7 per cent, against 17 per cent and 13.1 per cent in 2009. In addition, severe acute malnutrition, which highly increases mortality risks for children, went from an average of 2.1 per cent to 3.2 per cent in 2010.
"The emergency threshold has been largely exceeded, the children are going through an extremely difficult time and we are very concerned. We have to reinforce immediately our interventions to limit diseases and losses of human life", said Guido Cornale, UNICEF Director in Niger. "An acceleration of preventive and curative actions for malnourished children is ongoing, donors' support is crucial at this stage".
In the context of this nutritional and food crisis, which affects Niger, UNICEF and WFP have implemented significant preventive and curative activities for children suffering from global acute malnutrition. Following the results published by the National Institute for Statistics (INS), both United Nations' agencies are mobilized to expand their operations beyond the existing emergency plans.
The focus will be on protecting children and pregnant and lactating women from malnutrition, as well as providing treatment to children suffering from acute, severe, and moderate malnutrition. These actions will be facilitated by the Government of Niger's authorization for the introduction of new products such as lipid based nutritional supplements known commercially as Plumpy' Doz and Supplementary' Plumpy.
"The immediate priority for WFP is to gather all available resources to ensure ameliorated food assistance for beneficiaries from now to December 2010" said Richard Verbeeck, WFP Director in Niger. "The quality and the extent of our operations will depend on the donors' commitment to attenuate the suffering of populations in Niger".
Double the number of children affected by moderate acute malnutrition, will be treated in the state health structures, supported by WFP and UNICEF. In parallel, UNICEF and its partners are expanding their interventions in favour of children affected by severe acute malnutrition, whose lives are threatened. More than 107,000 children have been treated between January and May 2010, with a clear increase in admissions in the last month: more than 1,000 children are registered daily in therapeutic centres since mid-May.
A large scale communication campaign will be launched by UNICEF in the next weeks to promote exclusive maternal breast-feeding until 6 months, the only protection of the infant and the young child against malnutrition.
Insufficiency and bad rainfalls dispersion during the 2009 harvest in Niger have caused important cereals and fodder shortfalls. According to the results of the national survey on household vulnerability to food insecurity in rural and urban areas, conducted in April 2010 by the government and its partners, food insecurity currently affects 47.7 per cent of the population that is more than 7 million individuals. In certain departments, more than two thirds of the inhabitants suffer from severe food insecurity.
For further information, please contact:
Alice Golay, WFP Niger, tel +227 90 41 66 14
Anne Boher, Communication Unicef Niger, tel + 227 96 96 21 59