Niger’s malnourished children

October 20, 2014 • Niger, Daily Email Recap

Niger’s malnourished children

In Niger, children with dusty blond hair are ubiquitous: It’s a sure sign of widespread malnourishment. Resources are scarce, while fertility rates are soaring. Yet family planning is an uphill struggle.

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Sometimes, when she has no more food to give to her children, Haowa has to watch as they cry themselves to sleep. “It doesn’t take long for them to calm down”, she says, staring at her hands. Her voice is quiet, almost dispassionate.


Haowa’s husband is a subsistence farmer, and often, she says, the maize and millet he grows just isn’t enough to feed his two wives and their 12 children. The slight 31-year-old is constantly hungry: She regularly skips her dinner, she says, so she has more food to give to her eight children.


Malnourishment is common in Niger


She shrugs and stares down at the two tiny toddlers she’s cradling in her arms. Haowa has pulled up her bright, colorful blouse to let them suckle her breasts.


As she looks on impassively, one of her sons slowly extends his hand and feebly tries to push his brother away – almost, it seems, as if he’s fighting his triplet for their mother’s milk.


His mother leans forward and gestures to his thin body. “You can see from the eyes, the head, the stomach and the arms”, she whispers.


The two children, she says, are both severely malnourished. Their hair is dusty blonde, a sure sign that they are lacking vital proteins and minerals.

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