Niger + 1 more

The Niger crisis - WFP operational update 28 Jul 2005

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· WFP increases number of people being targeted with food aid: as Niger's traditional lean season (April-October) enters its final months, the country's food shortages are intensifying, forcing WFP to progressively increase the number of people targeted with food aid on the frontline of one of Niger's worst hunger crises.

To date, WFP has been targeting 1.2 million people, but this figure is now expected to rise to 2.5 million over the coming month. The agency is already lifting its immediate objective to target 1.6 million of the worst hit victims of Niger's hunger crisis.

Some 15,000 metric tons of rice has already been offloaded at the port of Lome, Togo and is being trucked north to Niger.

· Dispatched food aid: WFP is on course to reach its target of dispatching some 4,220 metric tons of food aid to its NGO partners by the end of the week. Earlier this week, a 25-strong convoy of lorries loaded with 996 tonnes of rice and 550 tonnes of pulses - vital components in WFP's food rations for Niger - set-off along the 800-kilometre road from the Lome destined for Niamey - a five-day journey.

· Distribution: distribution of these rations to some 272,880 people will start next week through WFP's NGO partners at nutritional feeding centres and free food distributions in the following regions: Diffa, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillaberi, Tillabery, Zinder.

Most of the 4,220 tonnes of food aid being dispatched by WFP this week will go to Concern, Islamic Relief, MSF Switzerland, AMA, Save the Children UK and IFRC. They will provide family rations to mothers of malnourished children aged under-five who are being treated in therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres.

· Italy-Niger Airlift: a technical fault in its Ilyushin 76 aircraft has forced a 24-hour postponement of WFP's planned airlift of high-energy biscuits out of the agency's humanitarian response depot in Brindisi, southern Italy. The flight is now scheduled for take-off to Niger's capital Niamey on Friday 29 July. The same aircraft will return to Brindisi on Saturday ready to make a second airlift on July 31 to the same destination.

Together, the two airlifts will carry a total of 70,000 metric tons of high energy biscuits - enough to feed 100,000 of Niger's hungry - as well as essential non-food items, such as generators and mobile warehouses. The biscuits, fortified with vitamins and minerals, will be trucked some 600 km to the Tahoua and Maradi regions ready for distribution in local villages through WFP's NGO partners.

· Cote d'Ivoire-Niger Airlift: some 186 metric tons of Corn Soya Blend are scheduled to be airlifted to Niamey from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire on August 5.

· Funding: to date, WFP's emergency operation in Niger has received US$ 11.5 million, just over 70 percent of the US$16 million now required. In addition to multilateral donations amounting to US$1.8 million, donors include: Australia (US$1.5 million); Germany (US$1.5 million); United States (US$1.5 million); Luxembourg (US$1.2 million); Italy (US$1.2 million); EuropeAid (US$1.2 million); UK (US$912,000); New Zealand (US$349,650); Denmark (US$279,000); Switzerland (US$39,062); private donors (Veolia, US$12,000; Petronas US$20,000).

· Mali: the devastating impact of the locust invasion and drought that hit west Africa's crops last year is not limited to Niger. Mali is also in the grip of a severe food crisis that WFP estimates is affecting 2.2 million people or 20 percent of the total population. The agency estimates that agricultural production is down 42 percent on last year and is 25 percent lower than over the past five years.

The consequences are devastating: some 5,000 Malian children in the north already suffer from acute malnutrition with infant mortality reaching record levels in some northern regions. However, the TV cameras whose horrific images of hunger in Niger caught the international community's attention, have not yet reached the affected areas of Mali and, despite the urgent need for food aid, WFP's emergency appeal for US$7.5 million to feed 444,000 in the country is facing a shortfall of 85 percent.

Niger needs your help. To make an online donation, visit http://www.wfp.org/helpnigernow

For all the latest updates on WFP's emergency operation in Niger, visit http://www.wfp.org/newsoom

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Chris Endean, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132108, Mob +39-348 155 7630

Stefanie Savariaud, WFP/Niger, Tel. +227 722320. Mob +227 403947

Simon Pluess, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Mob. +41-797743821

Trevor Rowe, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Mob. +1-6468241112, rowe@un.org

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel. +44-20-75929292, Mob +44-7968-008474