MARADI, NIGER/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 2 August 2005 - UNICEF Niger and the Ministry of Public Health of Niger are now conducting a second round of capacity-building training of national health workers in Niger in the management of severe and moderate under-nutrition of children.
This week, 30 Nigerien health workers are being trained by a medical doctor from the Ministry of Public Health and a nutritionist from UNICEF Niger in Maradi. The week-long training includes both in-class theory and two days of hands-on practical training in operating therapeutic feeding centres in and around Maradi. Maradi is the region most-affected by the current crisis in Niger.
"This training of national health workers is not only essential in saving the lives of children suffering severe under-nutrition in the midst of this emergency", said Aboudou Karimou Adjibade, UNICEF Representative in Niger. "In addition, the training also provides a sustainable approach to the early identification and prevention of severe under-nutrition in children throughout the country."
The so-called "cascade approach" whereby key people are trained to carry life-saving techniques back to their regions, is one of the fastest ways to create sustainable health networks.
Participants in the training include government, and national & international NGO health workers, including: medical doctors, paediatricians, nurses, health administrators and mid-wives. Participants in this week's training represent the 4 most-affected regions of Niger: Maradi, Agadez, Zinder and Diffa. Next week, another training session will be held for an additional 30 health workers representing the remaining 4 regions of Niger: Tilaberi, Dosso, Tahoua and Niamey.
Last week, a 'training of trainers' session on the management of severe and moderate under-nutrition was also conducted in Maradi by UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Health. The 25 participants included health workers (doctors, paediatricians, nurses and health administrators) from all 8 regions of Niger. Having successfully completed their training, they are now back in their regions where they will be conducting further training.
3.6 million people in Niger have been made vulnerable by the current crisis - including 800,000 children under five years of age. Of these children, 160,000 are moderately under-nourished and 32,000 are severely under-nourished. Admissions at UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding centres in Niger are rising, with more than twice as many children requiring care than during the same time period last year.
The international community has been warning of impending famine ever since a locust plague in 2004 and dry conditions in the affected areas of Niger ruined almost all the crops. Household stores and seed banks were depleted, animals died, and market prices soared. Aid agencies have been scaling up services throughout 2005, in response to the emerging disaster.
In addition to facilitating the harmonization of a national protocol for the management of severe and moderate under-nutrition in children, conducting the subsequent health workers training and providing therapeutic and supplementary foods for severely and moderately under-nourished children, UNICEF is working to: supply essential drugs, vaccines, mosquito nets, vitamin A supplements, iron and folic acid supplements, deworming tablets and oral rehydration salts for the treatment of diarrhea (critical interventions as under-nourished children are particularly susceptible to illness); establish additional therapeutic feeding centres; train health workers in the management of severe under-nutrition; train and support community-based nutrition monitoring and promotion teams to identify under-nourished children early and make referrals to therapeutic and supplementary feeding programs; counselling mothers, care-givers and community resource persons in essential child feeding practices, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, and development and protection principles; restock 150 cereal banks and train communities in their management; distribute garden seeds to women's groups; provide water/sanitation kits for families of under-nourished children and train families in basic water purification and storage; amongst other activities.
The country has been in a state of ongoing silent emergency in essential areas such as health, nutrition and access to water and also has the second-highest under-five mortality rate in the world, with one in four children dying before reaching age five.
While responding on an emergency basis to this crisis, it is critical to continue intermediate and long-term measures for sustainable development and to equip Nigeriens to meet their children's basic right to health, nutrition, protection and water/sanitation. UNICEF's activities, including the training of government health workers, local communities and families in these areas are essential to achieving this.
UNICEF Niger has issued an additional emergency appeal for US$14.6 million to care for 32,000 children suffering from severe under-nutrition and 160,000 children suffering from moderate under-nutrition in Niger.
UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Niger: Kent Page, Regional Communication Officer; tel: (227) 722-840 or (227) 532-129
Geneva: Damien Personnaz, Communication Officer; tel: +41 22 909 5716
New York: Gordon Weiss, Emergency Communication Officer, 1-212-326-7426
Note to broadcasters: B-roll footage of affected children in Niger is available free of charge at www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef.