A Crisis Ignored

A famine in Niger is threatening the lives of nearly 400,000 children.
Tsalha Idi Dogon Doutchi 28 August 2010

Right now a humanitarian crisis is devastating the lives of millions. But you may not have heard of it. It’s neither the terrible earthquake in Haiti nor the destructive flooding in Pakistan. In the fragile country of Niger, located in sub-Saharan Africa, a food crisis – a famine actually – is affecting over 7 million people, or half of the country’s total population. Children – as many as 400,000 − are dying from starvation and diseases exacerbated by malnutrition.

The crisis began with a drought in 2009 that led to poor crops and resulted in massive food shortages. Rising grain prices throughout the world have intensified the crisis, and recent flooding compounded the emergency.

I’m not sure why Niger is not making front-page news. Maybe it’s because there are too many crises for people to read about these days, much less feel inspired to support.

This lack of attention is frustrating because we know what to do – we have the proven solutions, the needed infrastructure and the political will. We simply lack the resources to make it happen.

My colleague, Shawn Baker, Helen Keller International’s regional director for Africa, recently returned from Niger and wrote a guest blog post for The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s blog, “On the Ground.” In the article, Shawn described how one little boy, Tsalha Idi, gained life-saving weight at an HKI-supported nutrition rehabilitation ward:

“Idi was 12 months old and weighed 10 pounds when he first came to the clinic. That is less than half of what a child his age should weigh. Aï [his mother] is 25 years old and Idi is her fourth child. One of her other children has already died. She carried Idi on foot for four hours to the nearest health center when he started having severe diarrhea and vomiting. Given Idi’s condition, he was referred to the district hospital, where he has been in treatment for 16 days. Since then, he has gained one and a half pounds and has become responsive, even starting to play with a toy.”

Tsalha Idi and his mother Tsalha Aï Gado. ©HKI

Tsalha Idi and his mother Tsalha Aï Gado. ©HKI

Idi is one of many children who are being saved by programs that treat children for malnutrition. HKI is on the ground working to ensure clinics have needed supplies, doctors and health workers are trained, and mothers know where they can get help for their children.

A health worker weighs a malnourished child in the Diffa region of Niger. ©HKI

A health worker weighs a malnourished child in the Diffa region of Niger. ©HKI

A health worker provides food rations to a mother of a malnourished child. ©HKI

A health worker provides food rations to a mother of a malnourished child. ©HKI

HKI has, in fact, been on the ground in Niger for years helping treat and prevent malnutrition. The need has now grown to almost overwhelming proportions. Almost. If we stop ignoring this crisis, we can bring hope to children just like little Idi. Click on the “Share This” icon below to spread the word and let your friends and family know that they can make a positive difference in Niger. Encourage your friends to donate. And please consider making a donation yourself. I did.

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Categories: Africa, Reducing Malnutrition


  1. JK says...

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Pingback: How to Make a Difference: Meet HKI’s Jennifer Nielsen | Seed to Sight

  3. Bruce says...

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