Niger is a vast, arid state on the edge of the Sahara.
The country endured austere military rule for much of its post-independence history and is rated by the UN as one of the world's least-developed nations.
The drought-prone country – with a population of just over 18 million – sometimes struggles to feed its people. Its main export, uranium, is prone to price fluctuations and agriculture is threatened by the encroaching desert.
As such, Niger is affected by child malnutrition rates of epidemic proportions – peaking during the ‘hunger gap’, a period between harvests in May and September when household food stocks become depleted and are insufficient to meet nutritional needs.
The hunger gap coincides with the rainy season and a proliferation of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, a lethal combination for young children: a malnourishedchild is more vulnerable to diseases such as malaria and a sick child is more likely to become malnourished.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Niger in 1985.
For further updates on our work in Niger, follow @MSF_WestAfrica on Twitter.
In Niger, MSF focuses on reducing child mortality, particularly during the annual nutrition and malaria crisis. Teams also provide humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced people in the south.
On the border with Nigeria, the Diffa region continues to suffer the consequences of the conflict between Boko Haram and different armies in the area. According to local authorities, by the end of 2016 there were:
- Over 240,000 refugees and displaced people in Diffa.
- Around 100,000 local residents living in precarious conditions - vulnerable to violence and disease.
Working closely with Niger's Ministry of Health, we helped respond to emergencies in the region, and provided free basic and reproductive healthcare for both displaced people and the local community.
Our teams have worked in the main maternal and pediatric health centre in Diffa town, the district hospital in Ngumi town and several health centres throughout the districts of Diffa, Nguigmi and Bosso.
In Diffa, our teams:
- Carried out over 317,000 consultations.
- Assisted over 3,810 deliveries.
- Treated around 24,500 malaria patients.
After attacks by Boko Haram on 3 June, we ran mobile clinics in Diffa town to respond to the needs of the newly displaced. We also provided medical and humanitarian assistance at Gari Wanzam and Kintchandi sites - where tens of thousands of people sought refuge after the attacks.
We continued to work at Madaoua district hospital. The facility has a 350-bed capacity during Niger's 'hunger gap', when there is a peak in malnutrition and malaria cases.
Here we ran the paediatric and neonatal wards, ran the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC), and supported the maternity ward to reduce newborn mortality.
Our staff also:
- Worked in several health centres across the district.
- Continued to implement the comprehensive preventive and curative care programme (PPCSI, going by its French acronym) - which fully monitors all children under the age of two in Tama.
- Managed the paediatric ward and ITFC in Bouza until the end of April, when the project was handed over to the Ministry of Health.
n the Zinder region, we:
- Continued to support the paediatrics unit and ITFC in Magaria district hospital.
- Boosted the hospital's capacity to 600 beds between June and December (peak malaria and malnutrition season, with an increase in admissions).
- Supported 11 health centres, providing primary healthcare to children under five.
- Reinforced the hospital referral system for the most severe cases.
- Opened another 200-bed paediatric unit in the nearby distrcit of Dungass.
Over 13,300 children suffering from childhood diseases and malaria were admitted to Magaria hospital. Over 66,500 were treated in rural areas. Under-fives are very vulnerable to these conditions, and these figures represent a worrying increase in comparison with previous years.
We responded to malaria through:
- Running community-based activities to combat malaria.
- Giving over 117,000 children across eight health zones in Magaria district seasonal malaria chemoprevention (repeated administration of antimalarials as a prophylactic).
- Supporting the inpatient paediatric unit at the national hospital and an ITFC in Zinder City, and another ITFC in Chare Zamna, with financial aid, staff training and medical supplies during the peak season.
After two years of progressive handover, we withdrew from this project in December 2016.
We work in Madarounfa district, one of the largest in Maradi region with a population of 500,000.
- Continue to run our paediatric programme in Madarounfa town and the surrounding area - this focuses on managing the main causes of childhood death, including malnutrition and malaria.
- Worked to improve community-based treatment of malaria.
- Added neonatal care to our activities.
- 12,256 children received outpatient care for severe malnutrition.
- 3,317 were treated in the ITFC.
- 5,334 were admitted for other diseases.
Niger experienced another meningitis outbreak this year, although not as serious as the one in 2015.
According to official figures, 1,409 cases of meningitis C were identified and 94 people died between Mach and June. We supported the Ministry of Health to monitor the affected areas, administer vaccinations and provide treatment.
To prevent the spread of the epidemic, our teams conducted targeted vaccination campaigns with the Ministry of Health in the worst-affected areas, reaching nearly 240,000 people in the Tillabéri, Dosso and Tahoua regions.
We also responded to:
- Several measles outbreaks - supporting the Ministry of Health in vaccination 70,000 people in Tahoua region, 66,000 in Diffa region, and 61,000 in Tillabéri region.
- We treated 130 measles patients in Tahoua.
- A cholera outbreak - helping emergency teams carry out a preventive vaccination campaign.
- Severe floods - assisting around 10,000 people affected in Abalack, Tahoua.
Find out more in our International Activity Report