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Dramatic results in Niger

In order to tackle the devastating problem of global hunger and its complex economic and social repercussions, we must hold ourselves accountable for delivering solutions to child malnutrition. I recently examined this in detail in a blog post I wrote for The Huffington Post.

Chronic hunger

In countries suffering from absolute poverty, chronic hunger is a deadly threat to children. It can cause irreversible damage during the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child's second birthday.

Of the world's nearly one billion hungry people, some 400 million are children. Most often, inadequate nutrition begins before children are even born. It causes physical and mental stunting, which in turn seriously limits their basic human development and economic opportunities.

Drawing on experience

One example of the ways in which we’re combatting this lies in our approach to the recent food crisis in Niger.  We applied lessons learned from Niger's 2005 devastating food crisis and focused on responding early to the crisis to minimise its effects. We did this by:

  • Distributing seeds and fertiliser
  • Reinforcing the Ministry of Health's capacity to provide nutrition support to pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under five
  • Implementing an innovative initiative where emergency cash was distributed to the most vulnerable women via mobile phones and manual cash transfers

Why target the most vulnerable women? 

It makes sense to target vulnerable women precisely because they are the caretakers of children during those crucial 1,000 days.

Saving lives in Niger

Our early and significant response in Niger saved lives and reduced suffering. Initial results show that cash interventions have huge potential to constrain the onset of malnutrition in communities facing food crises. 

Preventing extreme hunger

Our programme ensured that families and vulnerable children had access to food by injecting cash into the local markets which kept them functioning throughout the crisis. As a result, children were given access to better nutrition and healthcare services. 

The families who were most at risk at the beginning of 2010 are now harvesting millet crops with a significant increase in size and yield. This is a direct result of the improved seeds and fertiliser we distributed. We’ve learned a lot, but there is still a huge challenge ahead.

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