The Republic of Niger is a landlocked West African country with a population of about 23.6 million mostly living in rural areas. The country’s name stems from the presence of the Niger River that winds through the country. The Niger landscape is unique, composed predominantly of desert plains and sand dunes. The terrain is matched by a desert-like climate: hot, dry, and dusty, with extreme heat sometimes reaching 46 degrees Celsius. A predominantly Muslim country, Niger has a variety of linguistic groups, such as Hausa, a name which also refers to its largest ethnic group.
Following its independence from France in 1960, the country experienced several periods of violence and coups. To this day, access to basic rights remains a problem in Niger; slavery was banned only in 2003. About 41 percent of the population live in extreme poverty.
Despite extreme poverty, life expectancy and child mortality rates have been improving over the decades. The leading causes of death include diarrheal diseases, malaria, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders, measles, meningitis, tuberculosis, and invasive nontyphoidal salmonella (iNTS). Non-communicable diseases such as stroke, ischemic heart diseases, and congenital defects have also increased to contribute to a significant number of deaths over time. Malnutrition is the main risk factor for death and disability, as 46 percent of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition, and about 10 percent suffer from acute malnutrition. Pediatric ailments persist due to a young population, with death from neonatal disorders rising dramatically. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world, with approximately seven children per woman.
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