"After years of struggling, Niger was finally starting to get ahead," said Gail Neudorf, of CARE's emergency unit. "Women had formed microcredit groups, more people could afford to send their children to school and families had enough to eat. But in one fell swoop, they're knocked down again. Today, farmers are forced to eat the seed they should be saving to plant for next year's harvest. Their livestock are dying. Members of microcredit groups can't pay back their loans. Children no longer have school fees."
The nutritional situation of children is extremely poor. More than 1,000 children suffering malnutrition were admitted to clinics since June, and the number is growing.
CARE is distributing food and seeds to reduce the cycle of nutritional crisis. CARE is also distributing animal fodder to help people save their livestock and retain some economic livelihood during the emergency. "But we are facing a real lack of cash to buy and distribute food to vulnerable communities," said Alio Namata, CARE's emergency coordinator in Niger.
There is not nearly enough food to meet the need. As of now, the country has less than a tenth of the estimated 48,000 metric tons of food needed over the next few weeks. The lack of feed and grazing places is leading to conflict among herders. Many animals are dying, contributing to growing concerns that their carcasses may pollute sources of drinking water.
Despite the efforts of CARE and other relief organizations, the situation remains very serious. The food crisis is compromising certain successful program activities. Women's microcredit savings and loans groups have had to disband, and communities find it hard to raise money to supportschools.
Families are being forced to sell what few assets they have, such as household goods and livestock, in order to sustain themselves, ensuring a far more difficult recovery once the drought is over.
Zambia: Kenneth Walker, CARE,
firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 11 234 1221
Atlanta: Lurma Rackley, CARE, email@example.com, (404) 979-9450