Malnutrition Still Shadows Niger's Children

Niger, October 21, 2005

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    A local health aide mixes a nutritious supplement for underweight children in Tanchiley, Niger. Photo: Christy Collins/Mercy Corps Photo:

In the aftermath of devastating drought and a crop-killing locust infestation, Mercy Corps field workers are working to stabilize the fragile health of thousands of Nigerien children.

Since mid-August, Mercy Corps has helped nourish more than 4,000 underfed Nigerien children by initiating feeding programs in tiny village health facilities, and by training aides there on how to assess and treat malnutrition. In only one month's time, Mercy Corps nutritionists restored about 650 children to their target weights.

We need your help to extend this lifesaving work to more communities in the beleaguered Filingue region - where this season's crop failure portends hard times for the coming year - and to provide food for young mothers and women of child-bearing age, who also suffer from poor health as a result of acute food shortages.

Equipping village-level health facilities with the knowledge and skill to serve malnourished children is at the heart of Mercy Corps' strategy. Feeding programs conducted in larger Health Centers - which are too far for remote villagers to reach on foot - are maintained and replicated at these facilities, which are usually one-room consultation spaces managed by a community member trained in primary health care and provided a stock of medicines.

To ensure the program's success, two teams of two nutrition aides visited these villages - prior to deliveries of food supplements - to introduce the activity, ensure support of local authorities and train the village health agent and other feeding workers. Mercy Corps employs a nutritionist to coordinate these teams, follow-up within villages and support the Health Centers in managing their own programs.

The results are healthier children and a brighter future for the Niger, one of the world's poorest countries.