Conflict worsens hunger crisis in Niger

Report
from Action Against Hunger USA
Published on 15 Jun 2016 View Original
  • 2 million people throughout Niger are now experiencing critical food insecurity

  • Malnutrition levels in conflict zones in Diffa region—which hosts more than 241,000 refugees and returnees from the conflict in neighboring Nigeria—are above the emergency threshold.

  • Action Against Hunger is meeting urgent humanitarian needs of people recently displaced by new waves of violence

Over the past decade, Niger has faced drought, episodes of political instability, and several devastating food crises. Currently, 2.1 million people are facing food insecurity. In regions such as Zinder, Diffa, Maradi, and Dosso the malnutrition rate exceeds 15 percent, above the emergency threshold set by the World Health Organization. Of particular concern is the fact that 400,794 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, with another 709,003 children and 272,000 pregnant and nursing women moderately malnourished and very vulnerable.

New waves of displacement caused by recent attacks and ongoing conflict triggered by the insurgency group Boko Haram in neighboring Mali and Nigeria have driven a steady flow refugees and returnees into Niger, straining already scarce local resources.

Crisis decimates livelihood opportunities

People rely on farming, raising livestock, and fishing to earn income. But active conflict has made the Lake Chad and the Komadougou River areas inaccessible, depriving people of their livelihoods and preventing them from using land for grazing for their livestock.

"Before the conflict, the Diffa region was already classified as a chronically vulnerable area,” said Alvaro Pascual, Action Against Hunger’s manager of programs for Niger and the wider the Sahel region. “Now, even in areas less exposed to the violence, people are facing a very severe food crisis. Refugees and displaced families rely heavily on the support of host communities to help them meet their basic needs for shelter, food, water. But things have reached a breaking point: host communities themselves are struggling and food stocks are quite low.”

Meeting urgent needs and building resilience

"The humanitarian crisis in Diffa is complex. Sudden and unexpected population movements, precipitated by attacks on communities by Boko Haram, make it very difficult to plan for and deliver emergency assistance,” said Pascual. “Our work must integrate short-, medium-, and long-term planning and interventions, combining humanitarian assistance with transitions to recovery and development activities, and addressing the root causes of the vulnerability in the area.”

Action Against Hunger is prioritizing initiatives to improve agricultural production and help communities earn income.

To address the rising demands for clean water and sanitation, we are also distributing hygiene kits, rehabilitating and building wells and latrines, and conducting hygiene promotion and cholera prevention campaigns.

Our teams continue to monitor food security and nutrition status of at-risk communities in the coming weeks, and we will work to reach and treat children suffering from malnutrition.