Almost half a million children under five in Niger, an impoverished nation north of Nigeria, are acutely malnourished. That figure represents 17 percent of Niger’s population under five years old, and marks a 42 percent increase over last year.
The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) considers a malnutrition rate of more than 15 percent to be a critical emergency.
As reported by IRIN news service, this discouraging news comes from a Niger government study conducted in May and June with support from the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations.
According to the study, poor harvests in the last few years are a contributing factor; with no intervention, more children are likely to go hungry before the fall harvest.
The government survey paints a bleak picture: In all but one region, children under three are twice as likely to suffer from acute malnutrition than older children are. Hardest hit regions are Diffa, Maradi, Zinder and Tahoua. Acute severe malnutrition is at 3.2 percent, up from 2.1 percent last year. The mean fatality rate for children afflicted with severe acute malnutrition is 30 to 50 percent.
Niger’s children are also plagued with under-nutrition. About half of them are chronically undernourished, the same portion as in 2009. In the region of Zinder, six out of ten children do not eat enough on a daily basis to engage in natural physical activity. In the capital of Niamey, 17 percent of children are undernourished.
Serving Children in Difficult Areas of the World
Statistics about child hunger in countries like Niger seem overwhelming, but organizations on the ground are doing what they can. SOS Children’s Villages has been in Niger since 1993 with two Villages — one in the capital of Niamey and one in Tahoua, about 330 miles northeast of Niamey. A third Children’s Village — in Dosso, where economic emigrants going to work in other African countries often return HIV-positive — is under construction.
In a landscape of extreme poverty and widespread HIV/AIDS, SOS Children’s Villages provides a safe, loving refuge for Niger’s most vulnerable children who lack parental care. In addition, SOS kindergartens, schools, and clinics are open to the local population; these places are points of hope for children who have little. Through its family strengthening program, SOS offers AIDS-prevention counselling and works in other ways to stabilize households.
To learn more, please visit SOS Children’s Villages.
photo credit: SOS Children's Villages
By Kyna Rubin from SOS Children's Villages