Concerns first charter of relief goods arrived in Niger this morning, the cargo, valued at €250,000, consisted of special food for severely malnourished children, medicines and blankets.
Paul O'Brien, Concern's Overseas Director stressed that this is only the initial phase of the response "People in Niger face massive food shortages over the coming months, much of last year's harvest was destroyed because of drought and a plague of locusts. People lost both grain and fodder for their animals. Household stocks are now depleted and many people have resorted to eating wild leaves and berries. Malnutrition rates particularly among children are extremely high - in some villages 1 in four children are malnourished" he said.
Niger is a vast desert country, with a population of 11.5 million it is the second poorest country in the world, according to the United Nations. One third of the population face food shortages. The crisis is exacerbated by the fact that Niger, a land locked country cannot rely on imports from neighbouring countries as they too face food deficits. Donors have been slow to commit the resources needed to avert this famine.
Concern has been working in Niger since 2002, its focus has been on education programmes. An emergency response team is being mobilised to cope with this crisis. Over the coming weeks experienced nurses, nutritionists, logisticians, water and sanitation engineers and an accountant will join the Concern team in Niger.
Concern is working in two districts in Tahoua region Tahoua and Illaya, a nutrition programme targeting 6,000 malnourished children, is underway and food rations are being distributed to 6,000 families.
This is the planting season in Niger but it is reported that many farmers have neither the seeds nor the energy to plant - Concern are assisting with seed distribution to vulnerable farmers for the October harvest.