- Niger government has ordered medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres to discontinue its work in south of West African state on suspicion of having connections with Tuareg rebels, MSF reported yesterday.
An order from Interior Minister Albade Abouba on July 18, directs MSF to end all activities in Maradi, 700 kilometers east of Niger's capital Niamey.
MSF which has been in Maradi treating children under age of five, mainly affected by malnutrition, said it was not given any reasons for verdict, saying is the second time such was decision taken by Niger in less than a year.
Although Niger government provided no official explanation for the decision, Radio Anfani reported it was motivated by suspicions of connections between certain officials from MSF with Tuareg rebellion.
Niger which is 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.
Aid groups in 2005 helped to lessen devastating effect of food crisis that was brought about by severe drought and an invasion of crickets between rebels and Niger government. In that year alone, MSF said it provided treatment and food aid to around 38,000 children.
Niger, one of the leading countries in uranium mining, has been in constant conflict with Movement of Niger People for Justice (MNJ), a faction of Tuaregs nomadic tribes, demanding a greater share of the country's natural resources, notably uranium, which is attracting foreign investment particularly from France and China.
Tuareg rebels recently demanded for a 30 percent share revenue from lucrative uranium mines to be spent in their region, and have threatened to disrupt mining operations unless their demands are met.
However Niger government has dismissed the MNJ as drug smugglers, arms traffickers and bandits with no political agenda.
MSF withdrew from north of Niger for several months in 2007 after three of its vehicles were hijacked by rebels near Agadez.
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