The population of Niger is extremely young, with 50% of the population under 15 years of age and 70% of the population under 25 years of age. Access to water is a huge problem in this mostly desert country where 43% of the population have no access to drinking water. Rain is irregular in this dry land and so harvesting is always a difficult time. Last year the season began with some promise but towards the end of the rainy season there wasn't enough rain to ensure that seeds planted would come to fruition.
And from June of 2004 there were locust attacks on crops all over the country, beginning in the east and working its way across the entire country.
The recent drought, coupled with the crop destroying invasion of locuts led the Niger government to admit that one quarter of the population (3.6 million people) will go hungry before the next harvest ( due in October).
People are now suffering the devastating effects of the harvest failure. 800,000 children are malnourished and the mortality rate is increasing among all age groups. They are being displaced from their homes and land as they seek alternative income. This often has the knock on effect of rising prices for everyday commodities, children taking to the streets and prostitution increasing as people search desperately for any means to support themselves and their loved ones.
On July 14th the UN said that if food is not given immediately to vulnerable groups the country will tip into a full scale famine.
Rains have now begun indicating some hope for a good harvest this year. But children particularly are at continued risk of starvation.
Trocaire has committed an initial sum of €50,000 towards the emergency. Our partner agency on the ground, Caritas Niger, is currently providing 1,500 tonnes of food for over 28,000 people in seven regions of Niger: Agadez, Diffa, Dosso, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabery-Niamey and Zinderand. Seventy-five tonnes of seeds are also being provided in advance of the next planting season. As the situation continues to deteriorate, Trocaire and its partner agencies will continue to scale up their response.