Niger is on the brink of a severe food emergency that could leave more than half the 14 million population starving and around one million children critically malnourished, says the UK-based international development agency, Christian Aid.
As a consequence of cyclical drought and irregular rainfall leading to poor harvests in 2009, the emerging hunger crisis is expected to affect a staggering eight million people – significantly more than were affected by a similar emergency that hit the region in 2005.
"In response to the looming humanitarian crisis, Christian Aid has sent £100,000 to three partner organisations working in the north of Niger," says Jeremie Ouangrawa, the NGO's country manager for Niger and Burkino Faso, this afternoon (8 May 2010).
He continued: "These funds will provide food for the most vulnerable women and children in the coming months, support to cereal banks and food distribution, and will also help to set up cash-for-work programmes to enable families to buy cereals and grains in the markets."
"Imported food from Nigeria is readily available in the markets, but sadly it is far too expensive for most families to afford," added Mr Ouangrawa.
United Nations humanitarian chief, John Holmes, recently appealed for urgent international action to cope with the mounting emergency in the Eastern Sahel region.
The latest reports say many families are starting to abandon their home villages and head to the capital Niamey in a desperate search for food. Animals are beginning to die, malnutrition is on the increase, and water is increasingly scarce.
"Many schools are now also being abandoned, with attendance down 20 per cent in some areas, and the vast majority of Niger farmers fear that they will not have seeds to plant before the next harvest in October," said Jeremie Ouangrawa.
Christian Aid has been working in Niger since 2005, helping communities to rebuild their farms and to preserve their produce in cereal banks. First assessments indicated that the communities in which our partners have been working over the last few years have been less affected by the current food shortages.
Find out more about Christian Aid’s response at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/current/west-africa-food-cris...