Child deaths drop to near zero in World Vision communities

In Niger, preventable child deaths have been steadily decreasing in World Vision communities, as more mothers learn how to best protect their children from disease and malnutrition.

Story and photo by Mariana Chokaa, World VIsion International
Published May 20, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

In Niger — a country ranked among those with the highest under-5 mortality rates — World Vision has reported zero child deaths in three of the last five months within the 20 Nigerien communities where World Vision works.

More than 45,000 children and their families benefit from World Vision programs in these communities.

Educating parents saves children

Niger has a rate of 125 deaths of children under age 5 occurring out of every 1,000 live births.

Comparatively, the United States has a rate of eight under-5 deaths out of 1,000 live births.

This new trend in areas where World Vision is working contrasts with the average of 10 child deaths per month in 2011 and five child deaths per month in 2012.

Children were regularly dying from preventable causes because they were not taken to the hospital early enough or did not receive treatment for underlying conditions, such as malnutrition, which made them vulnerable to malaria and typhoid.

World Vision staff members have been actively educating mothers about the need to take their sick children to the hospital as fast as possible. Staff are also assertively promoting health interventions, like the use of mosquito nets and receiving vaccinations.

‘Relay women’ help mothers keep children healthy

Several other major efforts — such as campaigns to promote sanitation, proper consumption of potable water, diversified diets, and other aspects of healthy family living — have contributed to the decrease in preventable child deaths.

World Vision has also been advocating for the early diagnosis of malnutrition in children, mothers, and pregnant women, as well as retention of the malnourished in rehabilitation programs.

“One approach that should not be overlooked is that of the ‘Femme-Relais’ or ‘relay women,’ who are community volunteers that work with World Vision at the community level,” said Esperance Klugan, national director for World Vision in Niger. “‘Relay-women’ simply means ‘pick up the baton where the mothers drop it.’”

The relay women travel door to door in communities and inquire about the well-being of children under the age of 5. With time, community members come to know the relay women by name and view them as trusted people to whom they can be held accountable.

In addition to encouraging mothers to vaccinate their children and referring malnourished children to health centers, the relay women also closely watch the health of children whose mothers have stopped checking in with health centers.

Said Dr. Naroua Ousmane, health and nutrition director for World Vision in Niger: “In my opinion, the grace of God is the key element in all we do, and we can never overlook that.”

Learn more

Read more about World Vision’s Beyond 5 campaign to end preventable child deaths. Five is not a child’s lifetime.

How you can help

Thank God for the lives of children that have been saved in Niger. Pray that more children would be protected from preventable disease and malnutrition, so that they would grow up strong and thrive.

Make a one-time donation to help provide life-saving medicine and supplies. Your gift will multiply in impact to help provide essential resources, like Child Survival Kits that contain emergency food, rehydration salts, antibiotics, antimalarial medications, de-worming medication, vitamin A, and more.

Contact President Obama today. Urge him to support policies that prioritize nutrition for children and take the lead in making sure “the least of these” have enough to eat.