The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is calling on the international community to take action now to avoid a massive hunger emergency in Niger. Denise Brown, the WFP director in Niger, says “Vulnerable families are still exhausted by the last crisis, barely a year ago, and they have little ability to confront another emergency.”
In Niger “59.5 percent of the population is living below the poverty line” and “44 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition.” The country has a low resistance to shocks such as drought.
WFP issued a press release today:
Around one million people are in urgent need of food after a poor harvest in drought-hit Niger. The figure is likely to rise as the country moves towards the April-September lean season. Crop assessment results confirm a national cereal deficit of around 500,000 metric tons, worse figures than for the crisis years of 2005 and 2010.
WFP is planning to scale up its operations in Niger urgently, increasing the numbers of people reached by cash and food-for-work projects, and boosting nutrition for children under age two, pregnant women and nursing mothers. WFP already reaches an average of 500,000 vulnerable people per month.
The increasing frequency of droughts in the Sahel means that communities have not had time to recover from the last food crisis. Vulnerable families have had no time to replenish their household food stocks and build up their herds of livestock.
The return of around 200,000 migrant workers who used to send remittances to their families from Libya and Ivory Coast has not only hit the local economy but has created an additional burden on communities already struggling to find food.
WFP estimates it needs an additional US$60 million to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable groups for the next six months.
WFP is closely monitoring the situation in other countries in the region and is concerned about the situation in Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. In Mauritania, WFP estimates that some 700,000 people are facing severe food insecurity, compared to 500,000 in previous years.