Almost 3 million children in Niger are facing a growing hunger crisis triggered by crop shortages, rising food prices and insecurity in neighbouring countries, Save the Children has warned.
The aid agency is appealing for funds to support a planned £30 million emergency response to help those affected and try to avert the worst of the crisis.
Sophisticated early warning systems are predicting that 6 million people, half of them children, could be left without enough to eat later this year, after poor harvests led to food shortages and a spike in food prices.
Meanwhile, instability in neighbouring countries has affected cross-border trade, meaning Niger is unable to import many of the staples upon which it relies in times of shortage.
The aid agency wants to see early funding made available in Niger to head off the crisis before it peaks, and has launched an emergency appeal to pay for vital work that could prevent millions of children from falling into severe malnutrition.
Gareth Owen, Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director said: “The forecasts from Niger make for grim reading, and we know that children are always the first to suffer the deadly effects of hunger and malnutrition. If we act now we can prevent the needless deaths of thousands of children, but the window of opportunity to avert this crisis is closing fast. If we wait to act until children are dying, it will be far too late.”
Studies show that the effects of the growing crisis are already being felt in some parts of Niger. Children are being pulled out of school and put to work to earn extra money for food, and some families are being separated as parents travel long distances in search of work.
Niger has one of the worst child survival rates in the world. One in six children don’t live to see their fifth birthday, and half of those deaths are linked to malnutrition.
Save the Children is already on the ground in Niger responding to the deepening crisis. Last year, the aid agency reached over 500,000 children across the country, and plans to scale up operations to reach 1.3 million people over the coming months.