Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, Goudel, Niger
Awa Amadou is 29-years-old and lives in Goudel on the outskirts of the capital, Niamey. Awa has brought the youngest of her three children to the integrated health centre in Goudel because she is worried about his development and feels that he is not doing well.
The French Red Cross has been supporting the health centre to carry out a range of activities and, in particular, is providing assistance to the centre during the food crisis that the people of Niger are facing once again.
After the first basic check-up, it appears that baby Abdella, Awa’s 11-month-old son, is suffering from severe malnutrition. He weighs just 4 kg and is seriously underweight for his age. Abdella will receive immediate treatment. Abdella and the rest of Awa’s family will receive food rations for the next three months.
As one nurse tells us, “This is not an isolated case. These days, about 13 to 15 per cent of the children under five coming through our doors are suffering from malnutrition.”
This is a very high rate for an urban population and it shows just how severe the crisis is, the second in less than five years. Bekele Geleta, IFRC secretary general, who visited the centre, said he was heartbroken at seeing such conditions in Niger’s capital city.
“The people of Niger are not only struggling with poverty, but also with the destructive forces of nature.”
The Red Cross Society of Niger and the IFRC are working in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF to provide a complete programme of both capacity-building to the National Society and providing aid to vulnerable populations.
Around 7 million people – about half the population of Niger – are directly affected by the food crisis. The regions of Diffa, Dosso, Maradi, Tahou, Tillaberi and Zinder are facing the most severe crisis, and now, unexpectedly, the urban population of Niamey is also seriously affected.
About 50 per cent of the population in the main towns are food secure, whereas this figure is just 17 per cent in rural areas. Niamey, however, is an exception and the residents of Niamey report that for the first time they are seeing people, mainly women who live in the outskirts of Niamey, coming into town begging for food. There are an estimated 300,000 food insecure people living in Niamey, which has the highest percentage of food insecurity among its population.
For Adbella and his family, the pressure is off, at least for now and they have regular food for the next three months, but countless others are facing malnutrition and an uncertain future.
The International Federation first launched an appeal in March 2010 but has since revised the appeal to 3.35 million Swiss francs in response to the growing crisis.