UNITED NATIONS UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS BEGINS FIRST VISIT TO AFRICA
A decline in cereal production of over 410,000 tons and a fodder shortage led to a severe food and nutritional crisis, the second in five years. Livestock, a mainstay of household livelihoods, has been also severely affected. Recognizing the gravity of the crisis, the Government of Niger called for international support through an emergency action plan requiring US$358 million. As of today, the country has received over $255 million. These contributions have allowed United Nations agencies and national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to undertake life-saving activities. Over 220,000 children under five years of age have been treated for severe malnutrition since the beginning of the crisis.
During her three-day visit, Ms. Amos will meet representatives of the Government of Niger, the United Nations, national and international NGOs, and other humanitarian partners. She will visit Zinder and Diffa regions, which are some of the most affected areas by the crisis, to review humanitarian activities and prospects for improving the humanitarian situation. She will also ask donors to provide more assistance to the country, which will still need to confront the lingering effects of this crisis next year.
The visit will also help focus the international community's attention on the Sahel, the West African region that is home to some of the world's poorest countries whose economies are highly dependent on agriculture. In 2010, over ten million people have been affected by the crisis in the Sahel, including nearly two million people in neighboring Chad.
With an average of one food crisis every three years, Niger last faced a food crisis in 2005, when over three million people were threatened by hunger. These crises have recurred over the past three decades, affecting both daily livelihoods and longer-term development prospects. According to the United Nations Development Program, Niger is the least developed country in the world.
"Our efforts have helped save lives, but thousands more are under threat. We must ensure that the voice of those suffering the most are heard and that their most pressing needs are met. We also need to learn the lessons from these continuing crises and build the capacities of countries in the Sahel to prevent them from relapsing on a regular basis," Ms. Amos said as she started her mission.
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