$16 million needed to held stave off 'silent' food crisis in Niger, UN says

19 May 2005 –

Nutritional surveys and food security data show a critical situation in vulnerable areas of Niger affected by last year's desert locust infestation and drought, the United Nations said today, appealing for just over $16 million to turn back the "silent crisis" threatening the country.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched a flash appeal for $16.19 million to help meet the immediate food needs of some 3.6 million of Niger's 12 million people, including 800,000 children under 5 suffering from hunger, 150,000 of whom are currently showing signs of severe malnutrition.

OCHA said the food shortages, compounded by drought and the region's worst locust invasion in 15 years, are heavily concentrated in the poorest, most food insecure and vulnerable departments in the agro-pastoral regions of Tillabéri, Tahoua, Maradi, Diffa, Agadez and Zinder.

The country is already severely disadvantaged, with all indicators pointing towards increased poverty due to population increases, desertification, locust infestations and rain shortfalls. With so little rain, OCHA said, even cattle and livestock are at risk. The distribution of fodder for livestock, as well as agricultural seed, is essential at the community level, as well as focusing on stabilizing migratory flows by providing food assistance and creating favourable conditions for the 2005 agricultural campaign.

The current appeal will also focus on helping malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women through therapeutic and complementary feeding. In addition, the appeal seeks to increase food availability through subsidized sales, food-for-work activities, cash-for-work, food-for-training and support to cereal banks.

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