US $229 MILLION NEEDED TO STEP UP FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION INTERVENTIONS IN NIGER
As Niger's humanitarian situation has deteriorated over the past three months, households are progressively less able to cope. Some 7.1 million people or more than 47 percent of the population are food insecure, according to the latest April survey. In some areas, food insecurity has reached alarming rates, with two-thirds of the population severely affected.
Acute malnutrition in children is unacceptably high, according to the June 2010 annual child survival and nutrition survey. The prevalence of malnutrition has increased from 12.3 percent to 16.7 percent since the last survey conducted in 2009, exceeding the 15 percent emergency threshold. On average, 6,000 children are being registered in therapeutic feeding centres each week.
Until the end of this year, over 300,000 children under age five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition in Niger, of whom 20% (over 60,000) will suffer medical complications--the principal cause of death linked to malnutrition. Moreover, with the rainy season from June to September, the mortality rate is expected to increase among children affected by malaria, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, which are common during this period. In order to save lives, it is imperative that adequate care is ensured to fight these diseases.
The pastoral situation is also becoming increasingly precarious for the majority of livestock herders, due to a second consecutive year of fodder and water deficit for animals. Animal mortality is increasing.
The EHAP is a response to the Government of Niger's appeal for international assistance, launched on 10 March, to mobilize additional funds quickly and provide timely assistance to vulnerable populations threatened by food insecurity and malnutrition. It has been developed with the participation of the Government's technical services. Although donors have made generous pledges, more resources are needed now to get through the most difficult months of the lean period, July and August.
The immediate priority is to provide assistance to food insecure populations until the next harvests (October) in order to limit death and disease among malnourished children, pastoralists and their livestock.
Various assistance efforts are ongoing, on the part of the Government and United Nations agencies and local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These include a blanket supplementary feeding operation to prevent malnutrition in children under age two; the medical treatment of severe acute malnutrition among children aged under five and of moderate acute malnutrition in children and pregnant/lactating women; cash transfers; destocking activities; and reinforcing logistics operations, among other programmes.
At the same time, addressing the underlying causes of the crisis is essential. West Africa, including Niger, is a region where humanitarian and development issues are linked. For the longer term, as Niger is a country on the front line of climate change, humanitarian and development actors need to work together, with the government, to strengthen preparedness and address the underlying structural causes of these recurrent crises. Failure to fund development assistance at an adequate level would further heighten existing vulnerabilities in Niger and push the country deeper into a humanitarian crisis.
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