How to Save a (Nigerien) Life
The Millennium Development Goals call for an ambitious reduction in child mortality by 2015. In West Africa, Niger is sweeping away the competition. What’s its secret?
Niger doesn’t often make headlines. And when it does, well, the news is rarely uplifting. Perhaps you read about the landlocked West African nation earlier this summer, when a failed harvest and sustained drought plunged more than six million Nigeriens—a third of the population—into a food crisis. Or more recently, when flooding along the Niger River swept away 40,000 homes and claimed 80 lives. The only bit of sunshine to come out of Niger this summer, it seems, was the story of Hamadou Issaka, a swimming pool attendant who took up rowing three months before the London Olympics, trained in an old fishing boat, and finished dead last in the men’s singles sculls wearing an enormous grin on his face.
Yet there may be something else to smile about in Niger. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and UNICEF report in The Lancet that childhood mortality in the deeply impoverished country is on the decline. In fact, it’s plummeting.