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Niger: Inside the major malnutrition crisis in Maradi

13 Aug 21

Niger: Inside the major malnutrition crisis in Maradi

Every year from July to October, the combination of the "hunger gap" and the rainy season triggers a spike in the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition and malaria in southern Niger.

Since a large-scale food crisis in 2005, the prevention and treatment of child malnutrition has greatly advanced in Niger, however, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer in this chronic emergency.

This year, several factors could lead to an exceptionally severe seasonal peak.

Funding for dedicated nutritional and paediatric care programmes in the region has dwindled.

Alongside this, limited access to healthcare for malnourished children living in Nigeria's neighbouring states has pushed many Nigerian families to cross the border, instead turning to Niger’s health system for life-saving care.

By June, ahead of the peak season, the number of severely malnourished children treated since the beginning of 2021 was already well above last year's figures, rising by up to 46 percent in hospitals.

This worrying trend was confirmed in July, when capacity at the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre in Madarounfa was increased to 260 beds. However, the centre was overwhelmed with 300 children need to being admitted.

MSF is continuing to expand the emergency response in the Maradi region – supporting new feeding centres and paediatric wards – while also starting a project in Katsina state in Nigeria.

At MSF's out-patient department in Batil refugee camp Gandhi Pant, a nurse, escorts a patient with a possible appendicitis to a waiting ambulance. 

Batil is one of three camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State sheltering at least 113,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Blue Nile state to escape fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-North armed group. Refugees arrive at the camp with harrowing stories of being bombed out of their homes, or having their villages burned. The camps into which they have poured are on a vast floodplain, leaving many tents flooded and refugees vulnerable to disease. Mortality rates in Batil camp are at emergency levels, malnutrition rates are more than five times above emergency thresholds, and diarrhea and malarial cases are rising.

Help us prepare for the next emergency

MSF in Niger

Niger is a vast, arid country on the edge of the Sahara Desert in west Africa. Every year, food shortages and the rainy season trigger a spike of malnutrition and malaria in Niger, with a dramatic impact on children.

Working in Niger since 1985, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) focuses on improving paediatric care and reducing child deaths.

Niger has also become a major transit route for migrants heading to Europe.