from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 Oct 2010
(Niamey/New York, 15 October 2010): The positive aid response to the food crisis, which has affected more than seven million people in Niger, has helped save lives, but more effort is needed to mitigate its longer term effects, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said today in Niamey.

The UN's top official, who is on her first official visit to Niger, today met with seniorhumanitarian Government officials, representatives of donor countries, and humanitarian actors. She noted that that the financial response, the expertise of aid agencies and positive engagement by the Government helped to stem the crisis, which threatened millions of households and affected thousands of cattle, the mainstay of livelihoods. Since an emergency appeal was launched in April for US$358 million, $255 million has been received, allowing aid agencies to carry out projects in food, agriculture, farming, water, and income-generation. Some 220,000 children under five years old have been treated for severe malnutrition.

"We may have avoided the worst, but we must learn the lessons and support longer term preparedness and development efforts to prevent the increasing frequency of food crises in the country", said Ms. Amos, who began her mission to Niger yesterday.

With some 10,000 children admitted weekly into specialized feeding centers and families struggling to make up for lost cattle, aid agencies predict that the crisis impact will be felt into next year. Niger has confronted recurrent food crises over the past three decades, and last faced a food crisis in 2005, when over three million people were threatened by severe hunger.

Ms. Amos also visited communities that have been affected by flooding in the capital Niamey. While much of the water has receded, Ms. Amos took note of the growing phenomenon of climate-induced disasters. A desert country in which rain is usually scarce, Niger has been one of the countries in West Africa hardest hit by flooding this year, with over 226,000 people affected.

Ms. Amos is on her first trip to Africa since taking office last month. She will visit Diffa and Zinder, two of the areas worst affected, to review humanitarian activities and prospects for improving the humanitarian situation.

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 and 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 neighbouring Chad.

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