Niger lies in the eye of climate crisis
As the global food crisis exacerbates years of drought, a clinic in Niger is swarmed with emaciated children, with more dying in villages.
The food is consumed, and no planting can take place in southern Niger until the rains come. Hassan and Husseina, three-month-old twins, are being cared for in intensive care at an Aguié clinic by their mother, Hadjara Hamissou. They were admitted a few days ago, their tiny bodies wasting away from hunger. Each weighs less than 2kg, which is less than half their healthy weight for their age.
“I carried them here on foot,” says Hamissou. “At home in our village, it is a very desperate situation. The rainy season has not started so we cannot plant, and we have finished all our food. Everyone is suffering.”
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More than a dozen emaciated toddlers are clinging to life in the unit, while a medical team works behind a screen to resuscitate a 20-month-old boy.
They are unable to succeed. As Hamissou and the other mothers in the ward watch in silence, a porter brings his small body out of the room, covered in a purple blanket.
“His parents waited several days to bring him and by the time they came, it was too late,” says Al-Mustafa Amadou, one of the nurses. “We could not do anything to save him.”
Consequences of climate change
Niger is at the epicenter of the climate problem. Because of irregular rainfall and longer dry seasons, several sections of the country have not had a productive harvest in more than a decade. Temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster here than elsewhere in the world, causing a cycle of droughts that are depleting 14% of arable land. Cereal production dropped by 39% last year.
About 44% of Niger's children are malnourished, and 4.4 million people – 18% of the country's population – are expected to face food insecurity or worse this year, which is twice as many as last year.
Read next: UN: 13 million face hunger as drought engulfs Horn of Africa
Under-resourced humanitarian agencies only have the finances to assist 3.3 million people, leaving more than a million people without assistance as donors focus on other crises such as Ukraine and the drought in East Africa.
#Drought in the Horn of #Africa has killed over 1.5 million livestock and severely reduced cereal production, "and we are most definitely now sitting on the brink of catastrophe," according to a senior #UN Food and Agriculture Organization official. pic.twitter.com/HOcgJstNo8— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) February 16, 2022
The Niger government's recent emergency response plan to deal with the crisis has a $200 million gap in its $280 million budget, while the UN World Food Programme cut rations to people it aids in Niger by half in January as the global food crisis bites.
“The population is on the brink of a dire humanitarian crisis,” says Ilaria Manunza, of Save the Children, which helps fund the clinic in Aguié. “In fact, we are already in the middle of it – the child malnutrition rate is one of the highest in the world.”
The human toll at the clinic is stark. According to Moussa Bubakar, its medical director, 100 youngsters are now being treated for acute malnourishment, and he expects that number to grow in the coming months. Because there will not be enough beds for everyone, children will have to share. In addition, the institution lacks oxygen, blood, and gasoline for its single ambulance.
"Goats are unsellable, and our children are starving."— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) October 20, 2021
-Moses Loloju, a herder from Isiolo county.
Due to #ClimateChange, millions in #Kenya are struggling to find enough to eat. pic.twitter.com/5sSFJmnXpy
“Over the last three years, we have seen a big increase in malnutrition cases,” says Bubakar. “We don’t have enough resources to adequately treat them. We need more support."
“Children are dying from malnutrition in the countryside because their families do not have enough money to bring them here. They just die at home. Last week we had 10 children who passed away from malnutrition at the clinic and just one doctor to care for 100 children. We are trying to employ another doctor, but even two is not enough.”
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