NIGER: UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CALLS FOR "BRIDGING SOLUTIONS" TO PREVENT RECURRING CRISES
On the final day of a three-day visit, the UN's humanitarian chief travelled to the town of Toumour, located some 1,500 kilometres east of Niamey in the Diffa region, where she saw malnourished children receiving aid at specialized feeding and health centres. International aid has helped stem the crisis-about 5 million people have received food aid; some 220,000 children under five years of age have been treated for severe malnutrition, and about 800 specialized centres have been established. However, many households will still have to cope next year with the ongoing effects of this year's crisis. Beyond meeting immediate needs, the overarching challenge remains finding durable solutions to the country's cyclical food crises and the impact of climate change.
"Malnutrition is not due only to a lack of food, but it is also linked to disease, lack of clean water, lack of information. Over the years, we have become very good at responding to immediate needs. We now need to become good at building bridges between emergency relief and development. That is the only way that we can fix these cyclical food crises--we have to address root causes", Ms. Amos said.
In addition to visiting Toumour, Ms. Amos met senior officials of the Government of Niger and representatives of UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, and donors in the capital, Niamey. In the course of her discussions, she urged national and international actors to establish early warning mechanisms and stressed the need to build partnership with local communities, especially women.
She also sounded a warning on Niger's population growth. While Niger's population currently stands at 15 million, it is predicted that it will reach 50 million by 2050. Such growth is "unsustainable" in light of the country's current and projected food production capacity, she said. Family size must be better planned, she added.
Over the past three decades, Niger, like other countries in the Sahel, has faced recurrent food crises whose cumulative effects have exhausted the coping mechanisms of households and delayed longer term recovery and development.
"Our common challenge is finding durable cross-cutting solutions that ensure that children survive their fifth birthday, grow into adults, and lead productive lives", Ms. Amos said.
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