Niger: officers on bikes
You need to be pretty dedicated to drive 360km on a motorbike in temperatures above 40C in rural Niger.
Luckily Save the Children has many staff members that are ready to go the extra mile that makes the difference. In this case, it’s literally the hundreds of kilometres that make the difference between life and death.
Hitting the road
Motorcycles are the preferred transport method in rural Niger – if you can afford one.
That’s why Save the Children is using dozens in the three regions where we are operating; Zinder, Maradi and Diffa.
Every Monday morning, 55 of Save the Children’s field officers hit the road with the wind in their hair.
The one who has to go the longest distance to reach his destination has to travel 360km. That’s one day, sitting on a motorbike, to be able to do your job.
What drives our field officers is probably the reward of doing what they do – because saving children from dying of malnutrition is no ordinary job – I’d say it’s probably one of the most rewarding you can find.
Treating children in the community
Once the field officer arrives in the village he has been appointed to cover, the work can start.
Along with a community mobiliser, normally someone appointed by villagers themselves, the field officer answers questions on the health and nutrition of children and mothers. The children are screened, one after another.
People are already concerned. Nigeriens are no beginners when it comes to drought and food crises, having experienced crises in 2005 and 2010.
In those cases where a child cannot be treated in the village, that is, if their state is too serious, they have to be referred to one of the stabilisation centres, supported by Save the Children.
But luckily most of the children we screen can be treated in the community.
We must act fast
The field officers all talk of a worsening situation. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing, if it’s not already closed.
It is inevitable that the situation across West Africa, is bound to worsen.
For an organisation like Save the Children, it’s important to reach children at the early phases of malnutrition.
Once children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, it is more of a challenge to treat them, they are at a bigger risk and the treatment is more costly. That’s why our field officers are in a rush on the roads.
Help us reach more children caught up in this crisis – donate to our West Africa Appeal
Written by Hedinn Halldorsson, Emergency Communication Manager