Catholic Relief Services administers $2.7 million response to food crisis in Niger

Report
from Catholic Relief Services
Published on 01 Aug 2005
August 1, 2005, Baltimore, MD - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is responding to the crisis in Niger, where more than 3.6 million people face severe food shortages, with a $2.7 million emergency relief program.

This humanitarian crisis is the result of a double jeopardy of last year's vegetation-devouring locusts and devastating drought that has virtually destroyed food production across much of this West African country, and has resulted in significant loss of seeds for future planting.

CRS estimates that the hardest hit areas have seen a 60 percent to 80 percent loss of crops. Families have been forced to reduce the number, size and quality of their meals, leading to high rates of malnutrition, particularly among young children. People are eating leaves and grass, selling personal items, removing their children from school and migrating to neighboring cities and countries to find work or food.

Despite more consistent rains and interventions by aid organizations and the Government of Niger, people in Niger are short approximately 223,500 metric tons of food through the end of this year.

CRS Relief Efforts

CRS, along with our local partner, Caritas Niger, began responding as the food shortage in Niger started in late 2004, when the devastation on food sources by the locust infestation was apparent to aid workers and beneficiaries on the ground. Through a combination of Food for Work programs and emergency food distributions, CRS has provided food for 237,000 people over the course of this crisis.

Most recently, donations from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Bill Gates Foundation and Marisla Foundation allowed CRS to conduct emergency seed fairs in the Tanout, Ouallum and Tillaberi Regions of Niger between June 20 and July 1, providing 24,000 farmers with seed for this planting season. Eventually, an estimated 168,000 people will benefit from these crops.

CRS is in preparations to expand its emergency food distributions to an additional 140,000 people leading up to the October/November harvest. In addition to more than $500,000 in private donations, CRS is receiving assistance from the United Nations World Food Programme, the U.S. Agency for International Development, CAFOD (the British Catholic relief agency) Cordaid (the Dutch Catholic relief agency) and Trocaire (the Irish Catholic relief agency). With its local partner Helen Keller International, CRS also plans to implement therapeutic feeding activities, including provisions of medicine and milk supplements, for approximately 7,000 malnourished children.

The Danger of Locusts

A desert locust eats its own body weight or two grams of food everyday. One ton of locusts, a very small portion of an average swarm, can eat as much food in one day as 10 elephants, 25 camels, or 2,500 people, and traveling more than 100 km a day locusts can destroy huge swathes of crops in its path. Locusts progressively attacked approximately 1.8 million hectares of land across all pastoral zones and the northern portion of Niger's agricultural zones.

Locusts account for one-third of production losses in 2004. In addition to the invasion of locusts, parts of Niger experienced erratic rainfall, especially in the districts of Ouallam and Tillabéri.

Background

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its climate is harsh and natural resources are deteriorating. Sixty-three percent of the country's 11.5 million people live on less than one U.S. dollar a day. According to UNICEF, 40% of Niger's children are malnourished, the fertility rate is an average of 8 births per woman, and 84% of the adult population cannot read or write.

CRS has managed relief and development programs in Niger since 1991, and, across the world, distributes the most amount of food among all nongovernmental organizations.

Interviews

CRS has experts available for interviews, both in our Baltimore headquarters and in the field in Niger.
Contact John Rivera at 410-951-7399 or jrivera@crs.org