Food crisis in Niger

Concern today welcomed the allocation of €1 million by Minister Conor Lenihan for the crisis in Niger.

Following the meeting between the Minister and Concern, Mr Paddy Maguinness, Concern Deputy CEO, said: "It is good that the Irish Government is moving fast to help Niger.

"We appealed today for Minister Lenihan to put pressure on other European Development Ministers to respond to this huge emergency food crisis in Africa.

"We welcome the €5000,000 given to Concern."

The Concern team briefed the Minister on the scale of the problem that is affecting 3.6 million people in the African country.

Concern is currently spending €1.5million in Niger and the extra Government aid brings its total in the country to €2 million. Concern is in Niger since 2003 and is the only Irish aid agency in the country.

This new development comes on top of Concern's first emergency airlift into the famine stricken country. On Tuesday a special plane chartered by Concern flew into Niamey, the Niger capital, carrying 40 tonnes of rations, special medicines for children who are severely malnourished and specialised equipment

Concern's country director in Niger, Nigel Tricks, says:

"Hunger is an ongoing problem in Niger but this year is worse than most. Failed rains and a locust infestation wiped out much of last year's crop of millet, the staple cereal of the Sahel, the dry and dusty belt that runs across Africa just below the Sahara desert. Now, 20 per cent of children under five are malnourished with a significant proportion of these severely, and there are still two and a half months to go before the next harvest.

The persistent nature of food insecurity in Niger, a stoic population and a scarcity of relevant statistics served to disguise the magnitude of the emerging crisis, and a coordinated international response was slow to mobilise.

"Concern is beginning a nutrition programme designed to assist the most vulnerable children of the communities it has been working with in its long-term development projects over the last two years."

Concern is currently organising an airlift of food from Kenya to Niger because the situation is so desperate.