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NZ sponsors assured Niger children safe

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Mother and child receive food in Maradi, Niger.

NZ sponsors assured Niger children safe

New Zealand child sponsors will be relieved that their sponsored children are not suffering from the severe food crisis in Niger, says World Vision Niger's child sponsorship coordinator, Hannatou Hassane. Ms Hassane has just visited the most severely affected areas in Maradi, Zinder and Tillaberi regions and was encouraged by what she saw.

"The children looked healthy. We wanted to see if there were any of our sponsored children who were severely malnourished with medical complications and we didn't find this. In all of our projects, our staff said that World Vision's early interventions made a big difference, so our sponsors can feel confident about this," she says.

New Zealanders recently donated $380,000 to help World Vision with the food crisis in Niger. 2,500 out of 23,000 World Vision Nigerien sponsored children are sponsored by New Zealanders.

Two factors mark the success of World Vision's interventions in Niger. The cereal banks which villagers built as part of a food-for-work scheme. These sturdy brick structures contain cereal from the World Food Programme, and are ready for storing the local harvest. The other initiative was World Vision's off-season farming programme which taught farmers to grow vegetables for consumption and to sell in the market for profit.

"In one of the hardest hit areas, I went to the market in Ouallam and I saw many sponsored children with their mothers and grandmothers there, selling their vegetables and using that money to buy cereals," says Ms Hassane.

However, she stresses the crisis is not over, and World Vision is launching an expanded nutrition programme beginning this month and running through till August next year.

Along with emergency food distribution World Vision will conduct nutrition education for mothers and their children, as well as community groups, covering essentials such as the importance of consuming protein through readily available peanuts, which villagers will be taught how to grow, harvest and cook.

"Long term nutrition education and interventions are absolutely critical to changing lifestyle practices and improving the health of sponsored children," says Ms Hassane.

This is line with Government plans for a food security reserve and a move to modernise farming techniques to avoid a repeat of this year's food crisis which has affected almost a third of the country's 12 million people.

"The process of change is slow and requires patience, but it's happening," says Ms Hassane.


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