With their babies on their backs, mothers in the village of Tsaki wait patiently in line to receive food and medical attention – the result of a global effort to stop starvation in this drought-stricken country. With money donated by governments and ordinary people around the world, UNICEF has set up a cereal bank to provide weekly distributions of grain, and is providing vaccinations and health check-ups for children.
“I came here today to pick up my weekly ration of millet to feed my family,” said seventeen-year-old Rahila Ibrahim. “My baby boy will get vaccinations as well.” Like many children in her village, Rahila’s son has never been vaccinated. In Niger, one in seven women dies during childbirth. The visiting medical team also provides pre-natal advice and examinations for pregnant women.
"The state of health of these women and children is very precarious," said UNICEF Health and Nutrition Joint Administrator Dr. Daouda Alfari Dagada, who is assisting the medical team. A group of women, many with their babies, wait to purchase millet, a Niger diet staple. “The children – I would say almost two thirds are suffering from moderate malnutrition. Pregnant women are also undernourished. Many suffer from anaemia, which poses risks for them to have a normal and safe delivery.” On the days when grain is distributed and vaccinations are provided, children whose births have never been recorded are also officially registered.
Working closely with its partners on the ground, UNICEF Niger has provided over 41 tons of therapeutic milk, 6.7 tons of therapeutic food and 190 tons of UNIMIX – a life-saving porridge easy for undernourished children to digest. These items have been distributed across Niger to help children in 10 fixed therapeutic feeding centres and 21 outreach therapeutic centres.
In collaboration with the World Food Programme, 187 tons of corn-soy blend and 614 tons of cereals have been delivered to 62 affected villages, benefiting an estimated 200,000 people, including 40,000 children under five. In addition, about 900 tons of cereals are being delivered to another 90 villages, and approximately 6 tons of seed (corn, wheat, potato) have also been provided.
To empower the local communities, UNICEF is supporting the creation of cereal banks and helping train health workers. Education about nutrition and how to deal with shortages has also been provided in local villages. Efforts are also underway to prevent the food situation in neighbouring countries, including Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso, from worsening.