Expanded Niger Op Targets Malnourished Under Twos

Published on 20 July 2010

A child awaits the food that will stop him sliding into malnutrition.

(Copyright: Francesco Manetti)

WFP is building its expanded operation in Niger around the need to reach malnourished under twos in the areas worst hit by the recent drought. Getting special nutritious food to these million children is part of a general scale-up which aims to feed 8 million people over the next six months.

ROME – WFP’s scaled up relief operation in Niger will provide special nutritionally enhanced products to approximately 1 million malnourished children under 2 years of age, while their families will receive standard food rations.

“We are massively scaling up special nutritional help for children under two years of age, whose brains and bodies face permanent damage from acute malnutrition,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who arrived in Niger on Tuesday at the start of a fact-finding mission.

 

"The biggest danger for Niger is silence. There’s an effective plan of action in place, we have the full cooperation of the government and local partners, and one voice saying now is the time to act.”

 

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran in an interview with the BBC World Service from Niamey, Niger. Click to listen

 

"The crop failures last year were truly exceptional. People can only cope with so much."

WFP West Africa Director Thomas Yanga explains why people in Niger are going hungry. Read the interview

“The drought in Niger is an unfolding catastrophe for millions of people and we are struggling against time to scale up quickly enough to reach the escalating number of hungry,” Ms Sheeran added. Read the news release

Failed harvests

Failed harvests in 2009 brought about by late and insubstantial rains have plunged Niger into a nutritional crisis with over 16.7 percent of children under five suffering from acute malnourishment, according to a national Nutrition and Child Survival Survey released in June. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies anything over 15 percent as an emergency situation.

However, in the regions of southern Niger worst affected by the drought, levels of child malnutrition have risen to over 20 percent. Levels of child mortality are hovering under emergency thresholds, but WFP West Africa Spokesman Thomas Yanga said they were likely to surge as the summer “lean season” wears on. Read the interview

Massive response

In order to stem the tide of malnutrition in Niger, WFP is rapidly expanding its operation feed over 7.9 million people through to the end of the year.  Young children and their mothers remain at the center of the redoubled food assistance, according to Sheeran, who said that special efforts were also being made to protect older members of the family.

“For young children in Niger, the food we are providing is literally a life-saver,” Sheeran said. 

“But we are also taking measures to provide for the wider families so that nobody goes short, and the special nutritionally enhanced products we are providing for the very young can pack the optimum nutritional punch.”

The rations deployed to Niger include specially designed food supplements such as enhanced corn-soya blend and Plumpy’doz – a paste made of peanuts, oil, sugar and milk fortified with vitamins and minerals to help to address the nutritional needs of young children.

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