Malnutrition intervention saves infant lives in Niger

As a food crisis intensifies across West Africa, children and infants are especially at risk for malnutrition. World Vision is monitoring and treating malnourished children in the region.

By Adel Sarkozi. Photo by Justin Byworth.
Published March 13, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

You don’t need to see “red” on the nutrition-monitoring armband to know that 6-month-old Alhousanne is severely malnourished.

The signs are there: the ribs pushing through her chest like the wires of a paper lantern; the legs virtually withered; the skin unresponsive to touch; and the pained face crying.

Life has been difficult

You’ll find Alhousanne in the Tillaberi region of Niger. Tillaberi — one of the hottest places on earth, with temperatures often exceeding 120 degrees Farenheit in May — is the region worst affected by the West Africa food and nutrition crisis.

Alhousanne is with her mother, Rakia, at one of the local health centers, where World Vision has been implementing a malnutrition recovery program.

At 6 months of age, Alhousanne only weighs 8.4 pounds. Rakia is worried. Clearly malnourished herself, Rakia is only 17 and already has three children.

Life has been difficult. The family is facing a food crisis that has reached life-threatening levels. Rakia’s husband searches for work unsuccessfully after they harvested nothing last October.

Rakia, 17, is the mother of three children, including baby girl Alhousanne, who is  6 months old.

A glimmer of hope

However, Rakia says that her other child gives her some hope. Alhousanne’s 2-year-old brother was also severely malnourished. Although he’s still on the road to recovery, he is getting stronger each week thanks to Plumpy’Nut™, a therapeutic food product for children provided through World Vision’s malnutrition prevention program.

World Vision is investing in the community’s health by providing weekly care and monitoring of malnourished children. Healthcare volunteers have been trained by World Vision to monitor mother and child health in each village, and to educate, support, and encourage them to visit the clinic.

Alhousanne’s brother’s successful recovery is one example among many. Of the 6,330 acutely malnourished children, 5,451 have been rehabilitated through World Vision’s nutrition program in Niger in last year. A total of 25,162 moderately-acute malnourished children were cared for by World Vision’s malnutrition prevention programs across the country.

World Vision was one of the first organizations to assist the government of Niger in addressing acute malnutrition through the implementation of these programs. Our team works closely with Ministry of Health staff, as well as volunteers.

A long road ahead

Haoua is one the volunteers trained by World Vision. Sitting next to Rakia and her child in a World Vision orange headscarf, she confidently recounts that she has seen many children become stronger and healthier during her four years as a volunteer. 

But she worries about the growing food crisis. “In the days to come, the situation will be worse,” she says. “If the mother is hungry, the child will be hungry.”

Learn more

Read more about the West Africa food crisis on the World Vision Blog.

Four ways you can help

Please pray for children and families like Alhousanne and her mother. Pray for rains to return to this dry region, enabling a better harvest, and pray for critical assistance to reach those who are suffering most in the meantime. Thank God for the children who have recovered from malnutrition.

Sponsor a child in Niger. Through sponsorship, you’ll help provide a child with life-giving necessities like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, education, and more. Sponsorship also supports emegency interventions during times of crisis, like this malnutrition prevention program.

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving food and care. Your donation will help deliver critical assistance to hungry children around the world, like emergency food aid, agricultural support, clean water, nutritional training, and more.

Contact your members of Congress. Voice your support for the U.S. International Affairs Budget, which helps fund programs that fight poverty, hunger, and disease. Making up only about 1 percent of the entire federal budget, there are few places in that budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.