ACTED regional team, based in Congo Brazzaville, organized an emergency evaluation mission in Niger in May and June 2010 to assess the food situation and to prepare a response to the famine that is affecting central and southern Niger and over 7 million persons, in particular children under five years old.
Drought and food crisis
Niger is facing a food crisis similar to the 1984 crisis still remembered today. The 2009 agro-pastoralist season in Niger has been characterized by low levels of rain, leading to limited agricultural and fodder productions, well below the food needs of the populations and of the livestock. The poor harvests of 2010 have resulted in an increase of food prices, notably for cereals. Combined with the decrease of the purchasing power induced by the low production of basic crops such as niebe and peanut as well as with the falling value of livestock, these poor harvests have limited the capacity of most households to buy farming products and are thus condemned to famine.
Around 60% of the population, 8 million persons, threatened by the famine
In December 2009, a governmental survey focusing on the needs of the households showed that 7,8 million persons (58,2% of the population) were food insecure. National authorities in Niger then declared the country to be in a situation of "critical food insecurity", calling for large scale food and nutritional interventions.
Despite this first warning, humanitarian relief has not been sufficient and a new governmental survey, published in partnership with the WFP in May 2010, shows that the situation has worsen in the course of a few months, stressing that new areas are strongly affected by the famine, such as the departments of Ouallam and Tillabéri, only 200 kilometers away from the capital city Niamey. More than 8 million people are facing today the threat of a famine according to the results of this survey.
Children under five are the first victims
In view of this global food crisis, the first persons affected are children under five whose nutritional status has dramatically deteriorated in all of the central and southern regions. According to the results of a joint survey by UNICEF, WFP and the government in June 2009, the rate of acute malnutrition at national level is 12.3%. Less than half of the population (41%) has access to basic health services and one child out of five dies before reaching the age of 5.
Emergency food distributions and malnutrition prevention, key in ACTED's proposed relief intervention
The assessments conducted by ACTED have stressed the emergency of the situation, notably regarding the dramatic health condition of the populations living in villages in the desert, which is dire for children under 10 years old.
ACTED is working on the implementation of a voucher for food distribution project to allow most vulnerable households to get food items and to meet their basic needs in the short term. ACTED is also ready to intervene in the sector of malnutrition prevention for children under five as well as for pregnant and breast-feeding women, who even before the crises were severely affected as 40% of the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition in Niger.