Niger Suffers Worst Food Crisis in 20 Years
Children across Niger and North Mali are starving as the world ignores appeals for help.
Around 150,000 children will die soon without aid, according to Jan Egeland, head of UN Emergency Relief.
A deadly combination of poor rains and locust invasions have devastated last year's crops leaving around 3.5 million people in Niger with little or no food.
Experts say this is the worst food crisis for 20 years in Niger , which ranks as the second poorest country in the world.
A further 1.5 million people in the north of neighbouring Mali are also affected.
Rocketing Food Prices
Livestock are dying of starvation and drought in great numbers. It takes years for nomadic herdsmen to build up their herds, which have now been decimated.
Failed harvests have also sent farmers spiralling into poverty and hunger. Seeds for the next harvest have been eaten, leaving nothing to plant for October.
Food prices in the markets have more than doubled. In a country where two thirds of the population lives on less than $1 a day, most people cannot afford to buy food.
Desperate Search for Food
Dozens of villages have been abandoned as their hungry residents wander the desert in search of food. Some people head for the towns and cities, or even neighbouring countries.
Villagers gather leaves, berries and roots of wild plants to eat. Even these are becoming scarce in some areas, as so many people are relying on them for food.
"I have no means to face this famine," explains Zali Adamou, a 90-year-old widow from the Tillaberi region in Niger . "I have no food, livestock, nothing. I only have God!"
Islamic Relief in Action
Teams from Islamic Relief's Mali office were amongst the first to reach some of the worst affected regions in Niger and Northern Mali .
An Islamic Relief office has been set up in Niamey , the capital of Niger which will work with the Mali office to tackle the food crisis.
Reaching Over 1 Million People
Islamic Relief (IR) has already pledged an initial 1.4 million Euros to the emergency, and is working in partnership with other NGOs and institutions which have contributed over 1.2 million Euros so far.
1. Emergency Food Aid
In Niger , IR staff distributed 10 tonnes of emergency food aid in the Ouallam district. This distribution covered 3 villages, reaching over 5000 people .
IR is working with the UN WFP to implement a Blanket Feeding Programme, distributing food packs across all of the critically affected areas. Each 130kg pack contains enough rice, pulses and cooking oil to last a family for one month.
Monthly food distributions are planned to target the most vulnerable including children, women and the elderly in Tillaberi, Tahoua and Ouallam districts in Niger .
In Mali , 95 tonnes of food have already been distributed to families across the Gourma Rharous region in northern Mali .
2. Emergency Nutrition
IR is establishing 30 Supplementary and Therapeutic Feeding Centres across four districts, Tillaberi, Ouallam, Filingue and Tera in Niger .
Supplementary Feeding Centres help moderately malnourished patients and refer severe cases to Therapeutic Feeding Centres where more intensive care is provided.
UNICEF has donated 6 tonnes of food for IR's feeding centres.
3. Medical Aid
IR is providing medical equipment to the main hospital in Tillaberi which is one of the worst affected areas in Niger .
IR will provide free medical aid for the most vulnerable people in the Tillaberi region, who would otherwise be unable to afford healthcare.
A Mobile Nutritional Monitoring Team will visit local villages and health centres around Tillaberi to monitor diseases and nutrition and to refer severe cases to the hospital. The team will work closely with the Ministry of Health.