In Niger, more than 6 million people face food shortages

Humanitarian actors call for swift and adequate funding to respond to the unfolding crisis

Niamey, 12 March 2012 – Humanitarian actors are concerned by the early depletion food reserves of many Nigerien families and warn the risk of aggravation of the food and nutrition crisis if the aid response is not quickly reinforced.

According to the national Early Warning System (SAP), more than 6 million Nigeriens need immediate assistance.

“The situation of populations, in particular women and children, is deteriorating quickly. We call for a rapid response, consistent and massive response to prevent irreversible situations and to promote durable solutions”, said Humanitarian Coordinator a.i. and also United Nations Resident Coordinator, Fodé Ndiaye.

“To cope with food shortage, families are forced to adapt their feeding and economical behaviors, notably by reducing the number of daily meals, by selling their assets, or migrating to urban areas or neighboring countries”, added Fodé Ndiaye.

The combination of different factors, from an agricultural and fodder deficit from last years harvest, roaring staple food prices, the decrease of the value of cattle and the high level of debt of households following past crises, has considerably weakened the revenues and access to food of many families across the country. For this people, the lean season has already started: they don’t have any more food reserve until the next harvest in October.

“I’m desperate. Last years’ harvest did not yield anything. Finding food for my children and I, even for one meal per day, has became as difficult as pushing a big rock in the sand”, said Hassana Souley, 36, widow and mother of 4 children, in Ouallam, one of the most affected departments, located 120 km north of Niamey. “I’m walking tens of kilometers a day in search of wood to sell and I do small jobs for some families in exchange of a meaningless quantity of food.”

In some communities in the region of Tillabéry, for example, more than 40 per cent of the households have left their villages earlier than usual in search of food or livelihoods, heading to urban areas. Nationwide, more than 33,000 children have already been taken out of school because of the early migration of their parents or to contribute to revenue generating activities. More than half a million children are at risk of dropping out of school due to the food and nutrition crisis.

In the hospitals and health centers of the most affected areas, the number of consultations has already doubled. Almost 394,000 children may be affected by severe malnutrition.

Furthermore, the recent influx of 30,000 people fleeing the armed conflict in Mali is adding more pressure on some communities already facing a critical food situation. These communities had already coped with the massive and unexpected arrival of migrants fleeing violence in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya.

Under the leadership of the Government, and since the first signs of early warning in September 2011, humanitarian actors are mobilized to prevent the impact of these shocks on the population and reinforce their adaptation capacity. This early response has proven efficient and one million vulnerable people have already been assisted.

Prevention cost less than treatment. The experience of the 2005 crisis has shown that one dollar invested in reducing risks could prevent a child from slipping into malnutrition, whereas its treatment costs USD 80.

An ambitious response plan has been devised by the government and includes the sale of cereals at moderate prices and livelihoods rehabilitation activities such as cash/food for work. The response also plans: targeted food assistance; seeds and cattle food distributions; support to cereal banks and to pastoral households; prevention and treatment of malnutrition and of associated medical complications, as well as the promotion of access to water and sanitation.

For the above reasons, humanitarian actors are calling on adequate funding to be able to take immediate action.

To date, the Consolidated Appeal launched by humanitarian actors – requesting USD229 million – is only 30% funded. Additional resources are immediately required to reinforce actions already taken and to promote the resilience of populations to recurring shocks, while still addressing the underlying and structural causes of vulnerability.

For more information, please contact:

Franck Kuwonu, OCHA

Tel.: +227 96 00 94 96 or +227 20 72 61 04, email: kuwonu@un.org

Gaëlle Bausson, Emergency Capacity Building Project (NGO coalition of Care, CRS, MercyCorps, Oxfam, Save the Children, World Vision)

Tel.: +227 92 40 74 24 or +227 98 02 99 30, email: gaelle.bausson@oxfamnovib.ne | gbausson.oxfam@gmail.com

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.