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Niger children suffering acute malnutrition

Niger children suffering acute levels of malnutrition

While the Western world dons white arm bands and calls for an end to poverty, millions in Niger are on the brink of starving to death.

Child mortality rates in some regions of the drought and locust-ravaged country have passed the emergency stage, and are quickly heading to a "severe situation".

According to international standards, two deaths per 10,000 children a day indicates an emergency – in Niger, the mortality rates of under-5s has reached three in 10,000 a day.

Aid agencies, including World Vision, which is operating an emergency outpatient feeding centre, warn that nearly a third of the country's 12 million people are immediately threatened by the famine, including about 800,000 children.

Drought and a particularly devastating locust invasion last year meant this crisis had been looming for months, but developed nations have offered little response to the warnings from aid agencies in the region.

The United Nations has doubled the amount it is asking for what it has called a "catastrophic famine"– it's now in need of US$30 million. So far only US$10 million has been pledged from donors.

World Vision Niger has managed to raise US$1.3 million from grants and private funding, but says it needs at least another US$4 million for both immediate relief and recovery programmes.

Children suffering malnutrition are more susceptible to diseases such as malaria. World Vision is working to prevent this as much as possible by distributing treated mosquito nets in its project communities.

The desperate situation is certain to worsen as the peak hunger season has not yet hit, says Canadian nutritionist Sarah Carr, working in Niger.

She expects it to get significantly worse until the crops harvest in late October.

"Farmers are working hard planting right now and they're expending a lot of energy but they have little food input."

"Children are dying and adults are going hungry," WFP Country Director Gian Carlo Cirri told the UN last week.

"We have said this before and we are saying it again – Niger needs help today, not tomorrow.

"The international community cannot allow Niger to live as if cursed by poverty – we have the means to make a change and we need to mobilise them urgently."

World Vision New Zealand has committed $220,000 to relief programmes in Niger, and has sent out an appeal letter to donors asking for urgent donations to help with the food shortage there.

Donations can be made on 0800 800 776 or through the World Vision website: www.worldvision.org/donations

ENDS

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