Niger hit by unprecedented spate of child deaths: MSF

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Medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned Tuesday over unprecedented levels of child mortality in southern Niger during the past month, with 10 children dying per day.

Most deaths are linked to surging cases of malaria or malnutrition that have forced the intensive paediatric care unit in the city of Magaria to fill up, said the charity, which is known by its French acronym, MSF.

“We have never seen anything like this before and we fear it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Dorian Job, the Geneva-based head of MSF’s Niger programme, said in a statement.

Malaria cases normally rise this time of year because of the season, but the number this year is extraordinary, the charity added.

“MSF medics believe they are only seeing one sixth of the children who are in need of care,” the statement further said.

The hospital in Magaria serves a population of up to one million, 20 percent of whom are under five.

MSF already provides support to Magaria but has in response to the surging deaths dispatched an additional 243 medical staff and set up mobile clinics to try to reach children currently not getting care.

There were some 216 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2016, an increase of five million from the year before, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures issued in April.

Around 90 percent of the 445,000 malaria-related deaths in 2016 occurred in Africa. Seventy percent of fatalities occurred among children under five.

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