Relays for Life

November 28, 2012 • Niger
Niger Child Feeding
Niger Child Feeding

By Michelle de Carion, Samaritan’s Purse staff writer

When disaster, drought, or war strikes a country, food runs short. Children are often the first to suffer. Around the world, nearly 16,000 young boys and girls die every day from hunger and related causes.

In response, Samaritan’s Purse conducts child feeding programs around the world, focused on young children most at risk for malnourishment and starvation.

This year, Niger experienced a severe food shortage, resulting in widespread acute malnutrition and over 1,000 deaths in children. Since 2005, Samaritan’s Purse has been engaged in implementing community-based management of acute malnutrition, and recently, we expanded the scope of this work to include the training of 146 community health workers.

These health agents, or “relays,” promote essential family practices such as breastfeeding, complementary feeding, hand-washing, detecting childhood illness, and utilization of health services. We identified 78 villages that are in need and trained two relays in each.

Hariatou was one of the women who benefited from our child nutrition programs. Her daughter suffered from abdominal pain due to the consumption of girti, a potion made of bark and tree leaves

“With the tips and knowledge I learned from the relay, my child is doing very well now,” Hariatou said. “I stopped giving her the potion and her abdominal pain has subsided. She is even gaining weight.”

Hariatou understands now that the practice of feeding children girti is harmful to them. She is in full support of community outreach to spread this information to other families.

“Samaritan’s Purse has brought us into the light, and the light is the source of life,” she said. “We want to live healthy, so we must listen and practice what the relays say.”

Abdoulfataou Hamani was another one of the mothers our staff worked with. Her 2-year-old son, Kadi Alhassane, was constantly vomiting and had diarrhea, which caused him to lose a lot of weight. Abdoulfataou was told that this was a danger sign and advised to take Kadi to the nearest health center. He was then transferred to a hospital in Ouallam, and stayed there for three days.

Since then, Kadi has been monitored and cared for at a nutritional recovery center supported by Samaritan’s Purse. Currently, we support 15 health centers in Niger by distributing supplementary food, screening malnourished children and pregnant women, and doing food demonstrations.

“My child regained his health and he even increased in weight thanks to the advice of the community relays and rations provided by Samaritan’s Purse,” Abdoulfataou said. “I thank the community volunteers for their advice as well as Samaritan’s Purse for its nutritional support, which saved the life of my child.”

Over the course of the year, Samaritan’s Purse staff has treated over 1,500 malnourished children and 1,000 pregnant women, and has provided health education to over 2,000 women.

Our staff is not only helping save the lives of these small children in Niger and other countries, but is also pointing families to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything we do is in the Name of Jesus and is for His glory.