NIGER FACES PROLONGED SUFFERING; MORE INTERNATIONAL AID URGED

The World Food Programme

News Release
23 November 2005
NIAMEY ñ The United Nations World Food Programme warned today that
unless the international community renewed its commitment to deal with the
consequences of this year’s food crisis in Niger — including
prevailing high levels of malnutrition among children — the country faces a
second successive year of extreme suffering and hardship.
“It will take only the slightest adversity to push families over the
edge again,” said WFP Niger Country Director, Gian Carlo Cirri. “Many
people have used every available means to get them through this year and
the harvests will bring only a brief respite. The international
community must renew its efforts to help them through what remains a very
difficult time.”
A recently completed food security assessment by WFP across the worst
affected areas in Niger reveals a worrying picture of poverty, debt and
widespread food insecurity. Over 1.2 million people are estimated to
have cereal stocks sufficient for only three months, while a further two
million have stocks that will last a maximum of five months. Nearly two
million more face a precarious year struggling to maintain what are
already borderline livelihoods.
Even if rains are sufficient, locusts stay away, harvests are good and
food prices remain stable next year, many Nigeriens have already
stretched their ability to deal with difficult times to the limit. Their
survival strategies will be less reliable and less sustainable in 2006.
In the meantime, the current emphasis is on the malnutrition crisis
that continues to affect mainly children. WFP is providing food to
supplementary and therapeutic feeding centres as part of an overall effort to
feed two million of the most vulnerable people. In coordination with
UNICEF and MSF, about 200,000 children have been treated and fed in about
700 centres across the affected regions of Niger this year, with food
rations also provided for their families.
WFP still requires US$20.3 million to fund its current emergency
operation until March next year, with US$8.3 million needed immediately. A
break in food supplies looms as early as December if donations are not
forthcoming.
The recent assessment also showed that agricultural production was not
as healthy as it might have been because many men were forced to leave
villages in search of work this year.
While farmers in Niger often do not harvest enough food for an entire
year, traditional methods of making up the balance have been enormously
eroded. Many have sold most of their livestock to access capital or
because they could not feed them. They rely heavily on daily paid labour
or cash remittances from relatives and are deeply in debt.
In many instances, poor food consumption with little variety in diet is
likely to increase malnutrition among the most vulnerable, especially
young children.
Cereal prices in Niger’s markets have stabilized to a significant
degree since the return of the harvest, allowing most people some relief
from the worst effects of this year’s food shortages. However, the market
cost of millet and sorghum remains slightly above the five-year
average, prompting concerns that key staples will again be priced beyond the
reach of many poor households when their stocks run out.
“If people can’t afford to buy the food they need again next year it is
very possible that they will face a similar situation to this year.
Niger’s biggest problem is one of poverty ñ when survival strategies are
exhausted and all purchasing power is lost, disaster looms,” said Cirri.
Information gathered from a separate assessment mission conducted with
the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Government of Niger are
being analyzed and will be used to tailor operations appropriately in
2006.
WFP completed general food aid distributions in early October,
following the arrival of the harvest. A total of nearly three million people
have received food, but pressing needs remain. In order to meet the most
immediate requirements, WFP has extended its current emergency
operation until the end of March next year.
“Niger has sadly slipped down the international agenda, which could
have disastrous consequences for those who are still suffering from the
effects of this year’s crisis. But Niger needs more than a quick fix ñ it
needs sustained and targeted support to help it out of its crushing
poverty once and for all,” Cirri said.
Donors to WFP’s US$57.6 million emergency operation in Niger include
the United States (US$5.45 million); Canada ($3.25 million), the European
Commission ($2.9 million); the United Kingdom ($2.7 million); the
Netherlands ($2.5 million); Denmark ($2.4 million); Germany ($1.53 million);
Australia ($1.53 million); Venezuela ($1.5 million); Algeria ($1.49
million); Luxembourg ($1.23 million); Belgium ($1.2 million); Ireland
($1.2 million); Italy ($1.2 million); Private ($888,000); OPEC Fund
($600,000); Turkey ($600,000); Japan ($500,000); African Development Bank
($500,00); Switzerland ($433,000); Finland ($365,000); Spain ($363,000);
New Zealand ($350,000); Norway ($306,000); Czech Republic ($201,000);
Poland ($100,000); Republic of Korea ($50,000); Greece ($48,000); Monaco
($36,000); Faroe Islands ($33,000).
# # #
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food
to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional
needs, including 61 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world’s
poorest countries. WFP — We Feed People.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign ñ For just 19 US cents a day, you
can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school ñ a
gift of hope for a brighter future.
Visit our website: www.wfp.org

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