Niger

Lutheran World Relief responding to West Africa food crisis

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News and Press Release
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Baltimore , July 28, 2005 -- Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is accepting donations for emergency relief in the West African nation of Niger . LWR is working with local non-governmental organizations on the ground in Niger in the communities of Tillaberi, Dakoro and Tahoua, providing both immediate food aid to last through the October harvest, and seeds to ensure a harvest for next year. Initial plans call for five months of relief assistance for 52,000 people in the worst-affected areas, and funds are being sought to scale up support to other groups.

Last year's poor rains and swarms of locusts plunged Niger -- one of the world's poorest nations -- into crisis, putting nearly 3.5 million people at risk of starvation, a third of them children. A prolonged drought only worsened the deep poverty in the country. In total in the country, some 3,800 villages out of 10,000 have been affected by the famine.

The situation is alarming: not only do the people not have enough food, there is little feed for livestock, and animals are also starving to death at frightening rates. Farming families -- 82 percent of the population -- are facing difficulty in sowing crops for next year. They lack seeds, and many are so weakened by hunger they are unable to labor in the fields.

The drought and locusts also affected the neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso, countries where LWR also works, and LWR is in the process of assessing needs there.

Aid from the international community is finally beginning to come in, after months of dire warnings from the United Nations and the relief community that largely went unheeded. The United States recently pledged an additional $7 million in emergency aid, to be added to the $6.1 million already donated, making the U.S. the largest contributor to the relief effort.

But even with stepped up international assistance, more help is needed. Lutheran World Relief, with a 30-year track record in Niger , has already begun working with partners there to address the problem. Our response in Niger includes immediate food aid to help alleviate the current crisis, as well as programs focusing on long-term solutions, such as sustainable farming practices, improved seed stocks, increased access to water, and better management of soil quality. Initial plans include distribution of 146 tons of food and six tons of seeds, and funding is sought to scale up our effort to reach even more people.

"This is an immediate crisis that demands an immediate response," said LWR president Kathryn Wolford. "Whatever we can do to keep people from starving before the next harvest, we will do, while at the same time working with the people on long-term solutions to make their communities less vulnerable to a crisis like this in the future."

YOU CAN HELP

LWR is requesting public contributions to help Niger 's most vulnerable people. Your support will help provide immediate relief and prevent future suffering. The best way to assist people caught in an emergency is to give cash so that our partner staff on the ground can be most effective.

Your gift will be used for the "West Africa Drought Response/Food Crisis" until needs there are met. After that, further gifts will be used to help LWR respond where the need is greatest.

You may also call 1-800-LWR-LWR-2, or mail a check or money order to:

Lutheran World Relief - West Africa Drought Response/Food Crisis
P.O. Box 17061
Baltimore, MD 21298-9832

Please also consider making an unrestricted donation which will enable LWR to respond quickly to the next emergency.

Thank You for your help.

WHO IS LWR? Headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has been responding to emergencies and disasters since its founding in 1945. Working through partners and global relief and development networks, LWR works in 50 countries to provide not only relief but to combat the causes of poverty and restore the dignity it robs from people's lives. We advocate for fair trade that helps farming families earn a better income. We teach people to better care for themselves, their communities and the environment. We teach people how to be less vulnerable to natural disasters. We advocate with them for policy change that more fairly represents them. We counsel them after human and natural disasters, and help them recover with material aid and long-term programs. We do all of this exclusively with partners from the communities we serve.

LWR is supported by the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, LCMS World Relief, individuals and parish groups.