Food crisis in Niger - update 27 Jul 2005

Concern's first emergency airlift arrived into Niger last week carrying the food which is being distributed today. 40 tonnes of rations, special medicines for children who are severely malnourished and specialised equipment arrived on the plane and Concern are due to receive another 900 tonnes of food from the World Food Programme by this weekend.

Brid Kennedy is Concern's Regional Director for Niger is currently attending a Concern Supplementary Food distribution in Tahoua (pronounced Towa), one of the areas worst affected by the current crisis. The distribution is targeting malnourished children as well as pregnant and lactating mothers.

A Concern assessment team this week did a provisional nutritional assessment of children in the area in which today's distribution is taking place and recorded 30% moderate malnutrition (meaning they are under 80% of the acceptable weight) and 4% severe malnutrition (meaning they are under 70% of the acceptable weight and/or have medical complications). The severely malnourished children will require immediate therapeutic feeding in order to survive.

Brid has said that from what she has seen thus far, those assessment figures will be borne out at today's distribution.

Just as worrying is the fact that the rains, which have largely stayed away over the past two years, are not looking promising for this year. "This should be the height of the rainy season in Niger but there hasn't been a drop of rain during my week here. The maize stalks in the fields are already looking very unhealthy. If this situation carries on into August the October harvest will completely fail. Then we would be looking at a catastrophic situation." Brid commented.

Brid worked for Concern in the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-80's. "While the situation in Niger is not yet as bad it could turn into a major catastrophe should the harvest fail and the international community fail to respond."