Niger: A story of collective, community-led response to malnutrition

By CARE Australia June 13, 2013 0 comments

Adama and her daughter in August 2012, when Eduwa* was suffering from malnutrition. ©CARE

By Niandou Ibrahim, CARE Niamey, Niger

‘My daughter returns from far away… a true miracle,’ says Adama Issaka, holding Eduwa* tightly. The mother and her daughter look at each other in silence, then both break out in laughter.

Eduwa is only two years old but half of her young life has been spent fighting death. She is winning this fight and celebrates it every minute, every day, with smiles, winks, small gestures and tenderness.

Eduwa was born in May 2011 in the region of Tillabéry, Niger. The little girl grew normally during the first 10 months of her life while breastfed by her mother, then started suffering from malnutrition.

‘A big number of children fell ill, wasted away, died. I was desperate,’ remembers Adama with sadness.

‘I thought Eduwa was going to die, she had lost so much weight.’

Eduwa wasn’t the only child in danger, with a food crisis leading to widespread malnutrition across the region.

A joint press release issued by the government, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and several international aid agencies in March 2012 rang the alarm bell, stating:

‘The situation of the people, in particular women and children, is deteriorating quickly. The combination of different factors, from an agricultural and fodder deficit from last year’s harvest, roaring staple food prices, the decrease of the value of cattle and the high level of debt of households following past crises, has considerably weakened the revenues and access to food of many families across the country. For these people, the lean season has already started: they don’t have any more food reserve until the next harvest in October.’

Pictured nine months later, Adama is proud of the progress her daughter has made. ©CARE

Mata Masu Dubara (MMD) is a women’s network formed in Adama’s village several years ago to strengthen resilience towards climate risks. With the support of CARE, the group has developed a number of strategies including savings and loan associations and a granary to prevent the shortages of stocks which usually occur between March and September every year.

‘Emergency response costs between 70 and 80 percent more than prevention,’ says Johannes Schoors, CARE Niger Country Director.

With training offered by CARE at the Foyer d’Apprentissage et de Réhabilitation Nutritionnelle (FARN), the group has also planted vegetable gardens and runs demonstrations on how to produce nutritious food for children.

‘I’ve never missed a FARN session, and you can tell,’ explains Adama, while she looks at Eduwa.

Help more children like Eduwa overcome malnutrition. Donate to CARE’s Hunger Appeal today.

*Name has been changed

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