In Niger, mothers with malnourished children reach clinics

Under the shadow of a looming food crisis, Nigerian mothers seek sustenance for their children.

By Ann Birch and James Addis. Photo by Ann Birch. Edited by Shawna Templeton.
Published December 7, 2011 at 12:00am PST

Exhausted mother Hajara Zakou walked two days to bring her 21-month-old son, Ibrahim, for treatment at a World Vision health center in Gouli N’Kaba in southern Niger.

Ibrahim is suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea — an increasingly common problem in Niger following a poor harvest.

Malnutrition escalates

Hajara says her family succeeded in harvesting only about 10 to 15 bundles of millet this year — a fraction of their usual yield. Other desperate mothers arriving at the center confirmed they had produced only about 10 percent of their usual harvest.

In response, World Vision has expanded its child nutrition program in Niger, offering services at an additional 21 health posts. Children admitted into the program are treated for intestinal parasites, given a course of antibiotics, and provided with supplies of fortified food.

Food crisis impacts half of population

Disappointing rains and attacks by insects have led to a harvest deficit of almost 520,000 metric tons of cereal in Niger. Some predict a resulting food crisis that could eclipse the current drought in the Horn of Africa.

Last month, the government of Niger conducted a country-wide assessment and determined that up to 6 million people — almost 50 percent of the population — could be affected. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially vulnerable.

World Vision’s response

In addition to treating child malnutrition, World Vision is distributing food to the general populace, restocking cereal banks, and distributing seeds to encourage further planting.

Jean Baptise Kamate, regional head of World Vision operations in West Africa, says similar problems are being experienced in Mauritania, Chad, and Mali, and may require World Vision to replicate responses in each country.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for families in Niger and other West African countries who are impacted by this looming food crisis. Pray that they would find the nutrition they need. Pray that organizations like World Vision would be able to work together to help avert a major crisis.

Make a one-time gift to World Vision’s West Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will help deliver emergency food aid, agricultural support, and more to children and families at risk from this impending disaster.

Contact your members of Congress today. Urge them to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger around the world.