24 September 2010 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is set to begin a second round of a cash transfer programme to help families in hunger-stricken Niger, which has been suffering from a severe food crisis brought on by poor harvests and prolonged drought.
An assessment carried out in April indicated that over 7 million people, or about 46 per cent of Niger’s population, are suffering from moderate or severe food insecurity.
Marixie Mercado, a spokesperson for UNICEF, told a news conference in Geneva that the cash transfer programme is intended to help families get through Niger’s so-called “hungry season” – the period when grain stores are empty and before the new crops are cut in October.
The pilot programme was carried out together with the Government and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) CARE and Save the Children in two regions – Tahoua and Tessaoua – offering $40 a month to 30,000 families.
The money was distributed to women who had at least one child under the age of two, together with child-specific nutritional supplies.
“It is the first time that UNICEF is using cash as a way to help families caught in a nutrition crisis,” Ms. Mercado said of the initiative, which is part of the blanket feeding programme in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and others.
UNICEF introduced the cash programme after discovering that the monthly rations for children distributed during the first round of blanket feeding in May had only lasted a few days because they were being shared by families whose food stocks were been depleted.
The rations for children have been supplemented with food rations for families, along with the cash, since August.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue