Her face distraught, her gaunt body sweating in the mid-day heat, Indo arrives at a UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding center in Maradi, southern Niger. Indo is carrying her 21-month old baby girl, Salima, in her arms. Salima's arms and legs hang weakly, her spine and ribs protrude prominently through her skin and she only has the energy to try and breast-feed for a few seconds before her heads falls back over her shoulders, her eyes closed. "It's been two years that we've not been able to grow anything," says Indo. "It's because there's been no rain. We have no food anymore." Only 28 years old, Indo's face is worn, her body tired. She has walked alone for two days straight from her village, Koumaji, to Maradi. She has carried Salima in her arms the whole way, a distance of 35 kilometers in the relentless sun. They had nothing to eat. Salima is the youngest and the weakest of Indo's five children. "I have left my other children at home with my mother," says Indo. "My mother is old and weak but she will have to take care of them. I don't know how long we'll have to be here. I think Salima is very sick." It's not Salima's first time to Maradi. Indo brought her here 6 months ago in February when Salima was even weaker than she is now. The food crisis in Niger has been going on for some time, affecting hundreds of thousands of children like Salima. "The only thing I can give her is some millet porridge, maybe 1 or 2 times a day. There's no milk. It's not enough. I'm scared for Salima", she says, her voice breaking. A few minutes later, Salima is weighed, her mid-upper arm circumference measured and her height taken on a measuring board. Everything is recorded on her chart, although Salima is oblivious to it all. But, it seems that she's arrived in time. Salima is now getting the care and assistance she needs at this overworked, MSF therapeutic feeding center. It's filled with hundreds of other children, many who have arrived in a worse condition, but are now on the road to a healthy recovery.
UNICEF in Action:
UNICEF Niger is assisting in the care and treatment of children suffering severe & moderate under-nutrition and in reducing the effects of household insecurity in Niger through a variety of activities including the provision of: therapeutic milk & therapeutic food, essential drugs, oral re-hydration salts, de-worming tablets, growth measuring boards, weighing scales, amongst other items, to 10 fixed therapeutic feeding centers and 21 outreach therapeutic centers. In collaboration with WFP, 614 tons of cereals have been delivered to 62 affected villages, benefiting an estimated 200,000 people, including 40,000 children under five. 900 additional tons of cereals are being delivered to 90 additional villages, and approximately 6 tons of seed (corn, wheat, potato) have also been provided. UNICEF is also conducting training for 85 national health workers, including doctors, nurses, mid-wives and health administrators, in the management of severe and moderate under-nutrition.
Scaling Up UNICEF Response in Niger:
UNICEF is urgently appealing for US$14.6 million to scale up its response in Niger. UNICEF's immediate aims are to:
- Treat an estimated 32,000 children suffering from severe under-nutrition and 160,000 children suffering from moderate under-nutrition;
- Reinforce the capacity of the government agencies and communities to deal with the immediate and recurrent food crises in Niger; and,
- Assure adequate services for affected populations in Niger in health (e.g. measles immunization and vitamin A for all malnourished children, malaria prevention, etc.); water/sanitation (e.g. assure adequate water & sanitation facilities, provide potable water, etc.); and, protection (e.g. sensitization campaigns to avoid the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors & women at food distributions).