Niamey (AFP) - Southeast Niger is struggling with a dramatic increase in child malnutrition as tens of thousands of people flee the Boko Haram conflict, the charity Save the Children said on Monday.
Niger's Diffa province, where the army has been battling Boko Haram jihadists since February, has seen an influx of people fleeing the conflict, with around 150,000 displaced people swelling the previous population of 600,000 inhabitants, Save the Children said.
"Admissions to nutrition centres have doubled, or tripled, since the first large waves of displaced people began arriving in Diffa two years ago," the charity said in a statement, calling for urgent assistance from the international community.
Many of those who have fled to Diffa are from over the border in Nigeria, but the region is also struggling with a large number of internally displaced residents, the NGO said.
Between January and April more than 4,800 children were treated for malnutrition -- double the number during the same period last year, Akebou Sawadogo, director of Save the Children in Niger, told AFP. Around 10,400 children are expected to be treated in 2015.
The area is already extremely inhospitable, with food and water hard to come by and half of residents living on less than $1.25 a day, Save the Children said, warning that the Boko Haram insurgency has made the situation even more precarious.
"Access to food and clean water remains a daily challenge, while severe malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world," the charity said.
The armies of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have been fighting a joint campaign against Boko Haram for several months as the group's bloody six-year insurgency increasingly spills across Nigeria's borders.