Child malnutrition grows in south Niger

July 21, 2007 - 0:0

GENEVA (AFP) -- The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres on Wednesday warned that child malnutrition was growing to alarming levels in southern Niger, which was once regarded as the country's breadbasket.

MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Switzerland said the number of severely malnourished children admitted to its health centers in the Zinder region had doubled in the year to June 2007. Some two percent of children in the region are severely malnourished, according to the agency. ""Those figures are worthy of a country that's at war,"" said Arnaud Ghizzi, a food security specialist for the agency. The region with 1.2 million inhabitants is one of the most populated parts of the country and considered to be a prime farming area. However, Ghizzi said families were increasingly struggling since a food crisis in the south and east of Niger in 2005, while local staple crops are on the brink of failure this year. ""The proportion of very vulnerable households is increasing,"" he added. Ghizzi criticised United Nations agencies and the Niger government, saying they were overly optimistic about the nutritional situation for 2007. The landlocked African country bordering the Sahara desert has a population of 13 million and is rated as one of the poorest countries in the world