AP: "Nurses Care for the Niger's Malnourished"
July 29, 2005 -- Today the Guardian (U.K.) site posted a powerful AP story by Nafi Diouf about efforts by Doctors Without Borders and the U.N. to cope with the devastating famine in Niger, where almost a third of the population is "in crisis." The Doctors Without Borders mobile health team profiled in the piece is led by a nurse, and is composed of nine nurses, eight nutritional assistants, and two drivers.
The piece notes that Niger "year after year finds itself unable to adequately feed its people," but that a "locust invasion followed by drought" has made things especially bad this year. Children are "the most vulnerable." The piece reports that massive U.N. food airlifts are now expected, though it suggests that the world did not heed the urgent calls of the world body or aid groups until the situation had become a crisis.
The piece focuses on a Doctors Without Borders mobile health team working in eastern Niger that is led by Theodore Bitangui, a nurse from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mobile centers that such teams set up provide needed food and health care to threatened people in remote areas. The teams apparently visit designated areas twice each week and can set up the centers in 10 minutes. The piece has quotes from Bitangui, who describes the team's work to assess and treat the severely malnourished, including weighing and screening for malaria, "as anxious mothers sitting under a blazing sun watched his every move." One mother interviewed marvels at the weight gain in her year-old daughter after a month on the program. The piece also has quotes from team member Balki Harouna, a nurse whose long hours for the mobile team "mean more than a secure job and enough food to feed her family": "[W]e are giving back to our society and these people who haven't had any luck." The piece closes with quotes from UNICEF's Niger representative Aboudou Karimou Adjibade, who notes that children arrive at the "therapeutic feeding centers barely clinging to their lives," and that although "there is a high recovery rate for those who are treated, for some it is too late...With the appropriate resources, we will be able to save lives."
The piece highlights the critical work of nurses in providing urgently needed care in poor nations, including serving in leadership roles on field teams that save countless lives. We commend Naji Diouf, the AP and the Guardian for looking past the name "Doctors Without Borders" to tell this important story.
See the Guardian's article "Nurses Care for the Niger's Malnourished"