Speaking after a meeting with Paddy Maguinness, Deputy Chief Executive of Concern, the Minister said:
"The situation in Niger continues to deteriorate. The current food shortages are affecting more than 3.6 million people and the levels of child malnutrition are particularly acute.
The Department has been monitoring the situation closely in recent weeks, working in close contact with UN partners, including the World Food Programme, and with Concern, who have been working on the ground in Niger for some years.
Today's pledge of €1 million shows that Ireland is stepping up to the plate and doing so in a timely fashion.
I am immediately making available €500,000 of this money to Concern. They are on the ground and already providing assistance.
It is important to see the situation in Niger in the context of other food shortages in Africa. In June, I announced funding of €2.5 million to help address such emergencies in Southern Africa. There are also ongoing and emerging humanitarian crises in Sudan and in the Horn of Africa which we are addressing. It is important that the international community keep up to speed on developments and respond appropriately.
It is also vital to prevent such crises occurring. Ireland is funding a range of disaster prevention activities including supporting the UN in its efforts to prevent or mitigate the type of natural disaster we see in Niger where the effects of locust infestation are compounding an already very difficult situation caused by drought."
Note for Editors
Niger is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 176th out of 177 on the UN Development Programme's Human Development Index.
A severe drought last year, combined with a plague of locusts, destroyed much of the crop that was needed to feed the people and the cattle they rely on. This has compounded already severe food shortages. 800,000 children under-five are suffering from hunger, including 150,000 who have exhibited signs of severe malnutrition.
Priority humanitarian needs as identified by the UN partner agencies include:-
- Recuperation of malnourished children under five and pregnant and lactating women through therapeutic and supplementary feeding.
- Increase in food availability and accessibility at community-level, through subsidised sales, food-for-work activities, cash-for-work, food-for-training, and support to cereal banks.
- Support to existing health services to prevent water-borne diseases in affected areas.
To date in 2005, Ireland has provided over €12 million in emergency support to UN agency partners for activities from the tsunami affected region to critical, ongoing humanitarian crises in Africa. In addition, funding support of some €20 million has been provided to date in 2005 to Non-Governmental Organisation partners to support their emergency programme activities across a number of the most urgent humanitarian situations including Darfur in Western Sudan and the evolving Southern Africa food emergency.