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» 02.03.2010 - New transitional govt for Niger
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Politics | Society | Human rights | Health

MSF pulls out of Niger

afrol News, 30 October - French aid group Médecins sans Frontierčs has announced its withdrawal from Niger after more than three months of suspension by authorities.

Niger government has ordered medical charity in July to discontinue its work in south of West African state on suspicion of having connections with Tuareg rebel.

The group said it made a decision to pull out after its request for reinstatement received no response. The aid group was conducting nutritional programmes in south-central Maradi.

"As we have not received a response from Niger authorities and in view of government statements, the French section of Medecins sans Frontieres cannot help but leave the country," MSF said in a statement.

Niger's Health minister Issa Lamine has rejected appeals by medical aid group to resume a nutritional programme for malnourished children, saying they refused to cooperate with public services and misled officials by providing false statistics about children suffering from malnutrition as a measure to source more funding from donors.

"Let MSF leave and let state deploy means needed to take charge of the people's health," Minister Lamine said on a national radio.

Niger is said to be struggling to feed its people, having serious crisis of malnutrition with children under five, especially Maradi, an area said to have highest birth rate in Niger, with an average of eight children born to every woman.

In a survey carried out in Niger in late June, 1,487 of the 3,767 children found to be suffering from acute malnutrition were in Maradi.

President of international board of MSF Christophe Fournier said Maradi is one of the regions in Niger most affected by malnutrition, saying since MSF operations were halted, thousands of children have not been receiving treatment.

"It is shocking that a government, after having allowed innovative programmes to be established, would ignore the needs of thousands of children."

A leading trade union body in Niger called on Wednesday for lifting of a ban on work of a French medical charity to be lifted.

Union said withdrawal has unbearable social consequences with worsening of the situation of several thousand malnourished children and loss of more than 500 jobs of locally-employed staff.

The 2008 Global Hunger Index says sub-Saharan African countries have the highest level of hunger in the world, with Niger, Sierra Leone and Liberia experiencing "extremely alarming levels of hunger," - however this is still an improvement over 1990 levels according to index.

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