Locust swarms and drought have led to a massive food crisis across Niger , the second poorest country in the world, and northern regions of Mali .
With food stocks destroyed, over 3.5 million people in Niger are now in desperate need of food. More than 150,000 children are already suffering from severe malnutrition.
In the northern regions of neighbouring Mali , another 1.5 million people are also affected.
Both cereal and fodder crops were devastated by locusts last year in the worst insect swarms for 15 years. Without fodder, the livestock (camels, goats, sheep and cattle) have started to die in great numbers, worsening the food situation.
Food Prices Rocket
The price of cereals has doubled in some places, and granaries are empty. In a country where two thirds of the population live on less than $1 a day, many people have had to resort to desperate measures in order to seek food.
Seeds which should have been planted for the next harvest, have instead been eaten by hungry families. The next harvest, in October, is still four months away. Without immediate food aid, many already malnourished children will die.
According to the UN, around 40 per cent of Niger 's children were already suffering from malnutrition, even before the current crisis.
The severe food shortages have prompted the Niger government to implore the international community to assist them in this 'silent crisis'.
The UN has called for $16.2m to buy food, but has had no response from donor countries so far.
Islamic Relief's Action
Two teams from Islamic Relief's office in Mali are currently carrying out a needs assessment in the worst affected regions in Niger and Northern Mali .
Islamic Relief plans to work in partnership with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to provide food relief and supplementary and therapeutic feeding, as many people are already on the verge of death.
Staff in the region are preparing for a huge relief effort, and an initial £250,000 has been allocated for the work.
Islamic Relief has been working in Mali since 1997 and has a field office in the capital city, Bamako as well as Gourma Rharous in the north.