Saturday, 21 May 2011

Niger hunger situation worstens

In Niger, which narrowly averted a famine in 2010, the need for assistance is still great. The food crisis last year decimated livelihood assets and left many people extremely vulnerable to small changes in food prices, climate and other variables. Shocks that have materialised for many.

In the south of the country, 254 villages in Magaria District have been living on wild leaves and fruit after their sorghum and millet crops were destroyed by leafhoppers in 2010. The government of Niger, in partnership with international aid agencies, has now begun a cash-for-work programme in the area. The vast majority of funding for the programme (325 villages) is coming from the Niger government. WFP is also distributing food aid to the most vulnerable.

In the north-east a potentially more difficult situation is developing as thousands of Nigeriens return from Libya, where many worked as agricultural labourers. These people have lost their income and return to communities already unable to sustain those living there. The addition of any individuals to already food-stressed households in the country is likely to make the food insecurity situation more precarious very rapidly. Sahel blog gives a good summary of the situation of returnees and the impact on Niger.

The new civilian government of Niger is seeking 1.7 million Euros to deal with the dire food insecurity situation. So far less than 500 000 euros has been received. Without the assistance of the international community, especially given the ongoing upheavals in the region - particularly in Libya, from which 1000 refugees enter Niger every day - the fear that the country could slip into the famine situation so recently avoided is becoming increasingly plausible.

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