In-depth: Food and nutrition crisis in Niger and the Western Sahel

NIGER: Agencies call for $190 million to stem crisis

A young girl in the food-insecure village of Gouragass, in southern Niger
DAKAR, 8 April 2010 (IRIN) - Aid agencies are asking donors for US$133 million to help the government feed millions of people at risk of going hungry, adding to $57 million already received or committed.

The funds are needed to improve the food security of 3.2 million people and provide nutritional assistance to 1.54 million children and 35,000 pregnant and lactating women, the UN and NGOs in Niger say.

Some 7.8 million people, almost 60 percent of the population, risk not being able to access adequate food, according to the latest December 2009 survey.

Six UN agencies and nine NGOs are launching the appeal.

“We urge the international community to respond swiftly and ensure humanitarian agencies have the required financial resources to respond to Niger’s urgent needs,” Khardiata Lo N’diaye, head of the UN in Niger, said in a 7 April communiqué.

OCHA spokesperson Stephanie Bunker told IRIN: “The main focus of the UN and its partners is to save lives in Niger and help people escape food insecurity and malnutrition.” Agencies also need support to address people’s health and water and sanitation needs, she said. Over 1.5 million children risk becoming malnourished in the next twelve months if urgent action is not taken, Bunker warned.

Modibo Traoré who is with OCHA in Niger, told IRIN: “If sufficient funding is not found a significant increase in mortality and morbidity among children under five may occur; population movements from rural to urban areas and neighbouring countries will increase, and the abandonment of schools will intensify dramatically. More than one million head of cattle may die. It is extremely urgent to act now because these consequences are already visible on the ground.”

Mass migration is already occurring, with people heading from where rural villages to towns in Agadez, Zinder, Maradi and the capital, Niamey, as well as to neighbouring countries.

Poor or erratic rainfall has caused serious food and fodder shortages in parts of the country, triggering a spike in grain prices and a fall in livestock prices.

Response

The government has subsidized cereals in all of the affected areas. NGOs and UN agencies are scaling up to help the government respond to people’s food security, nutrition, health and livestock support needs in Tahoua, Diffa, Maradi and Zinder.

Over coming months UNICEF, WFP, the government and national NGOs will do blanket food distributions for 500,000 children between six and 23 months to help prevention malnutrition. WFP will also distribute basic foods to 1.5 million people in affected areas.

The International Committee of the Red Cross plans to buy some 14,500 cattle from nomadic farmers in and around Agadez at pre-crisis prices. FAO will intervene to support the livestock sector but not until end of April, according to OCHA.

ICRC will also provide food, seeds and tools for 100,000 people in both Niger and in Kidal and Gao in northern Mali where a further 250,000 people are estimated to be food-insecure.

Aid agencies are still assessing the food and nutrition situation around the country, including in Diffa and Tahoua.

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Links & Resources

ReliefWeb
Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS, in French)
The Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force
Famine Early Warning Systems Network
Global Information and Early Warning System
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