Humanitarian Situation Worsening in Niger

By Kylie M Tsudama

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

NIAMEY, Niger – Niger is in need of at least $190 million in international assistance in order to meet the food needs of its people.  In a matter of weeks that number has risen more than $65 million.

Poor harvests have left the people of Niger in desperate need of food.  Half of Niger’s population are already vulnerable to food shortages and that number only increases as food shortages increase.  Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable and more likely to succumb to malnutrition.  Relief officials scrambled to prepare an emergency action plan.

These severe food shortages are also causing children to stop going to school.

“Because of the food insecurity that prevails in our country, cases of mass abandonment have been registered in some schools,” said a government statement.

Abandonments came specifically in the central southern Zinder region.  The government has called this a “very worrying” situation, adding that “the departures are the consequence of the exodus of families” facing this crisis.  The food crisis has had the worst impact on the Zinder region this year.

According to Oxfam International, almost 10 million people can be affected by this crisis.

Today, UN aid agencies and organizations in Niger appealed for $132 million to support West African humanitarian programs.  The total amount of aid needed is $190.7 million.  $57.8 million has already been secured, leaving a shortage of $132.9 million.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a revised emergency humanitarian action plan that estimates 4.7 million people so far have fallen victim to malnutrition.

Later this month, OCHA will conduct a comprehensive humanitarian survey, which could cause funding requirements to increase depending on the findings.

The humanitarian team in Niger has aligned its priorities with those of the government, prioritizing “food security and nutritional aid, and support in health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and logistics.”

Food shortages also fuel the country’s political instability.  Niger’s military rulers, who staged a coup and took charge in February, understand the risk of famine and are afraid that famine may disrupt future plans for elections.  The military government has appealed for international assistance.

While Lo N’Diaye and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon both acknowledge the importance and necessity of resolving the government’s political crisis, they agree that the food shortage crisis is a top priority.

“The main focus for the UN is to save lives in Niger… this support would go directly to the population and allow them to participate fully in the democratization process,” said Lo N’Diaye.

Executive Director of the UN World Food Program (WFP), Josette Sheeran, called the food crisis a “major humanitarian challenge.”

The WFP has already increased its food aid to more than double.

For more information, please see:

UN News Centre – UN Appeals for More Funds to Assist People Facing Food Crisis in Niger – 05 April 2010

AFP – Famine Closes Schools in Southern Niger – 02 April 2010

ReliefWeb – Niger Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan: Food Crisis – 02 April 2010

VOA – Humanitarian Need in Niger Growing – 31 March 2010

ReliefWeb – Press Conference by Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator on Situation in Niger – 30 March 2010

UN Dispatch – Niger: Can Political Changes Help Alleviate Food Crisis? – 26 March 2010

VOA – People in Niger Heading Toward Capital in Search of Food – 26 March 2010

Oxfam – Failed Rains Put 10 Million People at Risk of a Food Crisis Across West Africa – 17 March 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive