Like many mothers in West Africa, Fouré Noldi from Sarfin Yama Sofoua village in Niger has been struggling to buy enough food to eat and seeds to plant. Poor harvests mean basic foods like millet are more than double their normal price. 

All over the Sahel region of West Africa, a severe food shortage is hitting children hard. 

Fouré simply can't afford to buy the two measures of millet a day she needs to feed her nine children. And millet by itself lacks the essential nutrients that children need to develop.

But Fouré's a community health worker and knows how to keep her children healthy, even when food is scarce. She and the other women in her village practise exclusive breastfeeding. This means feeding babies with breast milk alone. 

Thanks to a UNICEF Niger family health programme, Fouré and the other women have learned how breastfeeding and other simple steps like handwashing can stop the lack of food from having a long-term effect on their children.

Fouré and the other mothers in this picture all say that exclusive breastfeeding has played the most important role in making sure their children grow up healthily and don't become malnourished. 

 
Fouré (centre) and other mothers in her village say that breastfeeding is helping them keep their children healthy, despite the food shortage. © UNICEF/2012/Niger/Jean-Baptiste Lopez
Fouré (centre) and other mothers in her village say that breastfeeding is helping them keep their children healthy, despite the food shortage.© UNICEF/2012/Niger/Jean-Baptiste Lopez