A Save the Children aid plane arrived in Niger last week with enough food and equipment to support one month of therapeutic feeding for severely malnourished children and those recovering from malnutrition.
With more than 40 tons of essential supplies now on the ground, Save the Children is working to provide nutritional assistance to children under 5 who are facing severe food shortages following the lethal combination of poor rainfall in 2005 and a locust infestation in the sub-Saharan African country. Current activities are focused on assisting children in the Maradi region of Niger, which is facing acute food shortages. Initial estimates of 15,000 moderately and severely malnourished children in the region have been revised upwards to 40,000.
"We are concentrating our efforts on providing children and their families immediate assistance with food and medical supplies," said Rudy Von Bernuth, who heads Save the Children USA's humanitarian relief operations. "The situation has reached a critical point with many thousands of children at risk of acute malnutrition."
Critical supplies that Save the Children is providing include tents and other essentials to set up therapeutic feeding centers for starving children as well as emergency health kits, supplementary feeding kits, 20 tons of ready-to-eat food such as biscuits or porridge and 16 tons of a new product called plumpy'nut, a read-to-eat food that tastes like peanut butter but is fortified with all the nutrients a moderately malnourished child needs to avoid severe malnutrition.
Toby Porter, Director of Emergencies for Save the Children UK, noted, "Our team in Niger has been shocked by the levels of malnutrition in the region. Without urgent assistance a quarter of the country's 12 million people will go hungry, and as always children are especially vulnerable. Our emergency team is working hard to ensure that the most vulnerable children are given the best chance of survival."
Niger is one of the least developed countries in the world. Nearly one third of Niger's 12 million people live below the poverty line.