Niger + 5 more

Locusts, drought and poverty lead to severe food crisis in Africa

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CRS field reports confirm first-hand the desperate hunger crisis facing Africa's Sahel region -- which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

Millions of starving people, especially children, need food now.

- A severe food shortage is affecting more than 3.6 million people in Niger. A double blow of drought this year on the heals of a devastating locust invasion last year has resulted in a loss of 60 to 80 percent of crops in communities already suffering from chronic poverty in the world's second poorest country. Niger's ability to produce food is virtually destroyed and many families have resorted to eating leaves and grasses.

- In Burkina Faso conditions are forcing people to eat tree leaves and fruits not in their normal diet. Consequently there has been an increase in the number of children suffering from diarrhea.

- In Mali it is estimated that 2.2 million people (20 percent of the population) will require food aid because of the drought and recent locust invasion.

- In Mauritania many rural families are facing starvation. Malnutrition is widespread.

- In Nigeria the number of people suffering malnutrition is rising because of the drought. The population is vulnerable even in normal years. An ongoing measles epidemic is compounding the crisis.

- In Senegal many communities are facing starvation due to the severe damage caused by locusts. The season of desperate hunger is here.

CRS Responds

- CRS is currently distributing 4,000 metric tons of food to 237,000 people directly and indirectly in Niger and will be targeting an additional 150,000 people. With our local partner, Caritas Niger, CRS began responding to signs of a food shortage in late 2004 with seed fairs, which have proven enormously valuable. Farmers who planted seeds from these programs have been less affected by the crisis than others now confronting starvation.

- CRS served 8,500 farm households through seed and tool fairs in Burkina Faso and is making food more easily available for 27,000 people.

- In Mauritania our CRS partners are working to set up feeding centers for malnourished children.

- CRS is working with the United Nations' World Food Program to deliver 1,000 tons of food as part of the "Food for Work" initiative.