Doctors Without Borders warned Monday of a major food crisis among children in the Maradi region of Niger, and in northwest Nigeria, just over the border.
“A major nutritional and food crisis seems to be developing, so the priority today is to prepare as best we can,” said a statement from Issiaka Abdou, the agency’s West Africa operations chief.
Maradi has one of Niger’s highest birth rates — more than seven children per woman — and child marriage is common.
Children there regularly face nutritional problems due not just to the shortage of food but to a customary ban on giving fish and eggs to children, say experts.
This year, said MSF, there has been a sharp increase in the number of severely malnourished children at its facilities in the region — up 34 percent on the same period in 2020.
The number of those admitted in a critical condition over the same period has surged by 46 percent, notably at Madarounfa hospital.x
Families in northwest Nigeria have been bringing their children over the border for treatment, said the agency: their numbers are up 90 percent on the previous year at Madarounfa.
“In Nigeria, growing insecurity, notably due to criminal groups in Katsina state, has contributed to the deterioration of living conditions for the population living there,” MSF said.
The charity said it was working to improve its work in Maradi and in Katsina State, where the malaria season threatens to be particularly devastating.
In February, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 457,200 children aged between six months and five years were exposed to severe, acute malnutrition in Niger.