Zero child deaths to become new norm in Niger
World Vision Niger reported zero child deaths in three of the last five months from its 20 area development programmes that serve 45,552 children. This new trend contrasts with the average 10 deaths per month in 2011 and five deaths per month in 2012.
Many children were regularly dying from preventable causes because they were not being taken to the hospital early enough or did not receive treatment for underlying conditions such as malnutrition, which made them vulnerable to malaria and typhoid.
Now, WV Niger is more actively educating mothers about the need to take their sick children to the hospital as fast as possible and not wait for their children’s illnesses to become worse. Staff are assertively encouraging the use of mosquito nets and helping children, particularly those under five years of age, to receive vaccinations.
Several other major efforts have contributed to the decrease in child deaths, such as campaigning about good sanitation, proper consumption of potable water, diversified diets and other aspects of healthy family living. WV Niger has been advocating for early diagnosis of malnutrition in children, mothers and pregnant women as well as retention of the malnourished in rehabilitation programmes.
“One approach that should not be overlooked is that of the ‘Femme-Relais’ or ‘relay women,’ who are community volunteers that work with World Vision at the community level,” said Esperance Klugan, national director, WV Niger. “Relay-women” simply means ‘pick up the baton where the mothers drop it’.”
The relay women travel door to door in communities and inquire about the well-being of children under the age of five with their mothers. With time, community members come to know the relay women by name and view them as respectable people to whom they can be held accountable to.
Importance of the femme relais
In addition to encouraging mothers to vaccinate their children and referring those with malnutrition to health centres, the relay-women also closely watch the health of children whose mothers have ceased to continue checking in with health centres.
“In my opinion, the grace of God is the key element in all we do and we can never overlook that,” said Dr Naroua Ousmane, health and nutrition director, WV Niger.
WV Niger remains in prayer that zero child deaths will become the norm for every month of the year through dutiful health interventions, ensuring that no more tiny bodies are wrapped up and hurriedly put into the ground.