UNICEF solicits international support for Nigerien children

New York, US (PANA) - The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday said that Government of Niger needed international support to curb alarming levels of child malnutrition, as well as deal with its underlying causes.

UNICEF said in a statement that more than 15 children in every 100 suffered from acute malnutrition, as shown by the National Nutrition Survey that was released this month.

It said: "The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) among children under five years old in Niger is back to the same levels experienced in June 2009 - 12.3 per cent - registering a decrease of more than three points (16.7 per cent) from the previous survey conducted last November.

"The nutritional status nevertheless remains above the emergency threshold of 10 per cent for seven of the country’s eight regions,” it stated.

The statement also said that, "the survey found that children aged six to 23 months account for a large share of the nutritional burden, with one in five children affected by GAM and 4.2 per cent of them by severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the most severe form of malnutrition."

UNICEF further said that these figures had dropped, compared with June 2010, "but remain well above those that prevailed in June 2009 before a serious food and nutrition crisis struck the nation."

It noted that the survey revealed "unacceptably high" rates of chronic malnutrition for all age groups, which follow an upward trend, having registered an increase by five points to 51 per cent in June 2011.

"The prevalence of this form of malnutrition, harmful to the psychological development of children, illustrates the cumulative effects of recurrent episodes of malnutrition in children and reveals the urgency to act upstream to address the disease by offering children a healthy diet soon after birth,” UNICEF stated.

The statement also quoted Dr. Maimouna Guero, nutrition director at the Ministry of Public Health in Niger, as saying that, "malnutrition has enormous consequences, which includes, morbidity and mortality increase, poor educational achievements and lower productivity."

She advocated practices such as exclusive breastfeeding within the first hour of the child’s birth and up to six months, which UNICEF said is: "free, cheap and effective way to give children a good start in life."

According to the latest child survival survey conducted in 2010: "Only 27 per cent of Niger’s mothers exclusively breastfeed their children up to six months."
-0- PANA AA/BOS 21July2011

21 july 2011 15:29:03




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