Humanitarian Health Action

Niger 2005 food crisis

In 2004 a severe drought and locust invasion destroyed up to 100% of the crop in some regions, leaving more than 3 million people short of food. By mid-2005, an estimated 800 000 children under-five were affected, of whom at least 160 000 were malnourished and 32 000 severely malnourished.

The health impact of the 2005 food crisis in Niger was at first largely underestimated. The majority of humanitarian interventions focused on food supply instead of health risks associated with malnutrition. However, as people are weakened by malnutrition, the risk of death from diseases increases.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Limited access to clean water and basic sanitation help diseases to spread, while chronic malnutrition and poor access to healthcare make them more deadly.

The rainy season promotes the spread of disease. Malaria remains the leading cause of death. Outbreaks of cholera also occur.

Close to half of Niger's population of over 11 million people do not have access to healthcare. For those that do, it can be expensive and in many cases unaffordable.

Good harvests do not necessarily improve the health situation. Malnutrition is a chronic problem affecting about 40% of all of Niger's children.

WHO's action focused on:

  • Providing equipment and training to health staff to ensure that cases of severe malnutrition be treated at community health centres.
  • Improving healthcare through better information and coordination so that the right kind of medical treatment is available where it is most needed.
  • Helping prevent epidemics through the rapid detection and treatment of suspected disease outbreaks.
  • Helping develop a health policy making healthcare more accessible and affordable during emergencies.