New harvest failure is a cause for alarm

by Sebastian Meitinger, Ruth Bücker,  2012/02/08

The food scarcity in Niger is unfortunately known to be a constant and substantial threat to the local inhabitants. But this year, after four relatively stable years, the situation is once more acute – even disastrous.” One and a half year later, the words of a report by former coordinator Simone Winneg, written in May 2010, have once more become a sad and threatening reality.

Still weakened by the last famine, the people in Niger once more depend on our help. Photo: humedica/Stephanie Mühlbauer

Already in 2005 and 2010, humedica helped to fight the consequences of harvest failures and the resulting famines by means of sending out honorary doctor teams and distributing food. As a last resort, extremely undernourished patients could regain their strength at the humedica hospital in Kollo, at our hospital ward, where they were provided with medical care and special food.

Persons, who were also suffering from hunger, but whose state of health still allowed them to ingest food by themselves, were provided with high-calorie food. Pregnant and nursing women could participate in targeted training measures, in order to give them some understanding of the nutrients contained in the individual food items, and to show them how to prepare well-balanced meals using locally available food.

After in summer last year, the countries at the Horn of Africa became the focus of media attention, which contributed to facilitating the measures to fight the famine implemented by relief organisations, which had already been aware of the situation in any case, now the countries in the Sahelian zone are threatened by another disaster of terrible extent. Countries affected are among others Sudan, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and also parts of Niger.

The people in Niger are already weakened by the last drought and famine – both from an economic and a physical point of view. After losing their cattle, many families could not afford to buy new animals. A lack of rain caused their crops to wither. Furthermore, locust infestations came down on upon the people of Niger, and as if that were not enough, grain prices have soared sky high.

All this are reasons for alarm both among the government of Niger, and among relief assistants, who are already active in the West African state. According to local authorities, the number of people affected by slight malnutrition has increased by 40 percent only in the period from November to December 2011.

Medical assistant Stephanie Mühlbauer is weighing a child. The child does not like the procedure, but it is essential for its survival. Photo: humedica

Analyses by FEWS NET (Famine Early Warning System Network) even forecast an aggravation of the situation for the first two quarters of this year, and a further tightening of the supply bottleneck, so that more than half of the children, women and men in Niger will be affected by these shortfalls.

Even now, food supply is insecure for one third of the inhabitants of Niger, according to UN OCHA. That means that 5.4 million persons are and will be dependent on external support. An estimated amount of 1.3 million children and adults were already suffering from severe malnutrition.

humedica takes action

For the employees at our hospital in Kollo and at the health stations, which are the only points of medical treatment for numerous persons in rural areas, these alarming developments mean that they need to increase their attention and care towards the persons in their areas of responsibility.

In the villages, medical care measures for the patients have already been intensified. Persons, who have not consulted the humedica hospital or one of the 22 health stations for an unusual long period of time, are visited and examined by medical staff. The humedica assistants in Kollo report that more and more of their patients are undernourished.

Thanks to our experiences in other famine regions in general, and in Niger in particular, humedica is well-prepared for the occurrence of this kind of humanitarian disaster and willing to oppose it. However, we can only meet this challenge with your support.

Please contribute to our relief measures in West Africa by means of targeted donations. Let us join forces to help in those places where a disaster is silently forming, and will spread unnoticed if not for our attention. Let us remain at the side of the millions of children, women and men. Thank you very much!

      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference “Hospital Kollo
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Thank you very much! Photo: humedica/ Enoxi Sureka

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