Niger + 6 more

Crisis in Niger and countries in the Sudan-Sahel belt

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1. Timeline: the food situation in Niger and the European Commission's response

SUMMER 2004: Locust infestation resulting in widespread crop and pasture losses. Poor rainy season with rainfall ending earlier than usual. Cereal and fodder harvest insufficient. The World Food Programme (WFP) warns of difficulties in 2005.

END SEPTEMBER 2004: The Commission channels €25.5m through the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the anti-locust campaign in Senegal, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

JANUARY 2005: WFP and the Helen Keller association carry out nutritional surveys that reveal higher than average incidence of severe and moderate malnutrition for the season (January levels are comparable to those of July).

MARCH: Rapid rise in cereal prices combined with a drop in livestock prices. Premature, large-scale departure of cattle herders with their herds to seasonal pasture zones. Local food shortages reported with indications of a developing crisis particularly in the Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua and Tillaberi regions.

Niger's national agency for the prevention and management of food crises, which receives significant support from the European Commission (€16.75m in 2005), releases funds for the purchase of 42,000 tonnes of cereals. This is offered for sale at low prices. It also distributes food in return for labour intensive work. The Niger government is responsible for managing food security instruments and coordinating food aid.

The WFP launches an appeal for US$4m to which the Commission responds with an allocation of €1m. The WFP operations are fully integrated with those of the national agency for the prevention and management of food crises.

APRIL: The European Commission's humanitarian aid department, having received no funding requests from operational partners (in contrast to Mali and Mauritania), contacts potential partners in Niger.

MAY: The United Nations issues an appeal for $16.8m.

BEGINNING JUNE: The Commission's humanitarian aid department sends an evaluation mission to Niger. It's main concerns are over a lack of action to deal with moderate malnutrition and the absence of a 'pipeline' for the delivery of therapeutic food (Unimix) used in treating acute malnutrition. UNICEF will eventually take on the task of purchasing, transporting and distributing this food.

MID-JUNE: The Commission's humanitarian aid department launches a €4.6m emergency decision for Niger (together with a €2m decision for Mali).

24 JUNE: The Commission receives its first concrete proposal for aid to Niger from the Spanish NGO, ACH. On 8 July, UNICEF sends its proposal for the purchase, transport and distribution of Unimix. Because of delays in establishing the pipeline, much of this therapeutic food has to be sent by air. The first cargo plane, carrying 45 tonnes, arrives in Niger on 18 July.

END JUNE: MSF-France opens its fifth therapeutic nutrition centre, using its own funds. It is also managing 27 mobile distribution units to provide food for severely malnourished children. MSF-France delivers 40 tonnes of food by air.

JULY: It is clear that the government's food security measures, taken in collaboration with donors, are insufficient to tackle the growing crisis. From some regions, such as Agadez, no information is available about the scale of the problem. The European Commission therefore agrees to help fund the French Red Cross to carry out nutritional surveys in these regions.

BEGINNING OF JULY: The Commission launches a second humanitarian decision for Niger for €1.7m to support the food distribution efforts of the WFP targeting the most vulnerable (households with children suffering from malnutrition), and for food security assistance to the worst-hit agro-pastoral communities.

END JULY: Another assessment team is sent from the Commission's humanitarian aid department to evaluate the situation in the light of the operations already ongoing, and to facilitate coordination among all humanitarian actors, whether or not they are being financed by the European Commission.

2. Commission actions in other countries of the Sudan-Sahel belt affected by the food crisis

MALI:

€1.2m for food security operations.

€2m in emergency humanitarian aid. Decision of 27 June. Funding deployed by ECHO to assist people affected by the food. Food support targeting the most vulnerable, and children in particular.

CHAD:

€2m for food security operations.

ETHIOPIA:

€4m in emergency humanitarian aid. Decision of 13 July. Support for victims of malnutrition resulting from drought and epidemics.

€30m (€10m€ + €20m) to support the national food security programme.

ERITREA:

€8m for food security operations.

€4.6m in emergency humanitarian aid.

- Decision of 3 May. €620,000. Support for victims of climatic hazards and food insecurity.

- Decision 18 July. €4m. Humanitarian aid for victims of the recurring famine due to a combination of serious structural food insecurity and the economic crisis.