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Border Closures by Niger’s Military Junta Cut Off Critical Aid to Over 90 000 Malnourished Children

Border closures by the miltary junta in Niger have resulted in the blocking of much-needed aid for malnourished children under the age of five in crisis-hit regions – Tahoua, Maradi, and Zinder – the World Food Programme (WFP) has said.

Over 9 300 tonnes of WFP cargo, including specialised foods for the treatment and prevention of malnutrition, are still blocked between the port of Lomé in Togo and the border of Benin.

This cargo should be headed for Niger and Burkina Faso.

According to the WFP, the sudden move affected 90 000 children in early September, but the figure could rise to 160 000 by October unless the borders are opened.

Jean-Noel Gentile, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Niger, said this should not be the case at all.

He said:

We cannot allow the children of Niger to be cut off from such a critical nutritional lifeline. To prevent a severe nutritional crisis, supplies must reach the country. If they do not, the consequences will be measured in serious infections and preventable deaths.

Following the political turmoil, according to recent market monitoring by WFP and its partners, the average price of rice and sorghum in the nation jumped by 21%.

Just before the coup, the second-greatest levels of acute hunger since assessments began in 2012 were experienced by 3.3 million people, about 13% of the population.

One in every two children under five experiences some type of malnutrition.

Particularly concerning is the frightening nutritional situation in hard-to-reach places like northern Tahoua, northern Tillabéry, and some towns in the Dosso region.

Therefore, the high cost of living for families already facing climate change-induced food shortages, food inflation, and a beat-down economy is making the situation worse.

“This situation has forced WFP to suspend supplementary feeding to 90 000 moderately malnourished children in Tahoua, Maradi and Zinder, starting in early September,” the WFP said.

“The suspension of WFP’s nutritional support is likely to exacerbate child malnutrition in a country where vulnerable families already struggle to access nutritious foods due to seasonal shortages, rising food prices, and low purchasing power during the lean season and pre-harvest periods.”

Niger’s economy loses an estimated 289 billion CFA francs ($539 million or R10 billion) a year owing to child malnutrition, and one in every two children under five who die there have experienced some type of malnutrition, according to figures from the national statistics institute of Niger.

Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown and imprisoned by the country’s presidential guard on 26 July 2023. Shortly after the coup, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the Presidential Guard’s commander, proclaimed himself the leader of a military junta. 

Source : News 24