Niger Food Crisis 2005: Humanitarian Situation Report No. 1

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 26 Jul 2005


I. Humanitarian Highlights
Targeted free distribution to most vulnerable

While initially reluctant to adopt a strategy that may weaken development efforts, the Government of Niger has reviewed its approach to the current crisis. The national body in charge of coordinating risk reduction, prevention and response activities to mitigate and manage food crises (Dispositif National de Prévention et de Gestion des Crises Alimentaires – DNPGCA and Cellule Crise Alimentaire of the Prime Minister's Cabinet – CCA) has so far promoted subsidized sales, cereal banks, food for work and loans of cereals to be reimbursed after the upcoming harvest in October, but has since mid-July decided to proceed with targeted distribution of free food in the most critical areas. Subsidized sales will continue to be carried out in less critical areas.

Increase in Humanitarian activities in Niger

New partners are settling in Niger and/or boosting their capacities: French Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, Qatari Red Crescent, IFRC, Save the Children US, Islamic relief, Oxfam UK, Concern, Réunir, MSF/Switzerland. Development partners are stretching their ongoing programs to emergency response activities: World Vision, Care, Africare, CRS, Caritas, Oxfam Québec. For contact lists see www.humanitarianinfo.org/westafrica/niger.

Current challenges

Major challenges currently facing the humanitarian actors are 1) immediately covering the needs in terms of severe and moderate malnutrition and 2) identifying the most vulnerable in order to target assistance most effectively and efficiently at the peak of the lean season. Current suffering and the rapidly eroding coping capacities of communities call for rapid expansion of nutritional feeding centers and free cereal distribution as well as free access to health services in selected areas.

II. National context

1. Economic and socio-political update

According to a joint assessment undertaken by the Government of Niger, UN and NGO partners in March 2005, 3.6 million people are in need of emergency food assistance, of whom 2.5 million or 3,815 villages are thought to be extremely vulnerable and require food assistance « Evaluation de la Situation dans les Zones d'Insécurité Alimentaire », SAP – CCA – GTI/CCA – YFP – FEWS NET- Agrhymet (CILSS), March 2005 . Affected by poverty, most of the rural population is facing serious difficulties in having access to its staple food, namely millet and sorghum. Prices of cereals have increased three-fold. Livestock prices decreased dramatically. Populations have migrated out of the most vulnerable zones and wild food is being consumed.

Although an example of democratic rule and governance in West Africa, the country is the second least developed in the world according to the UNDP human development index ranking which places Niger as 176 out of 177.

The demographic growth rate is one of the highest (3.6%) in the world with a fertility rate of 7 live-births per women. A recent study from the Ministry of Economy and Finance projects that the population of Niger, which is of 12 millions today, will reach 55 millions by 2050.

Niger is one of the 14 African countries benefiting first from the recent debt relief decision of G8.

2. Food security vulnerability analysis

The Comité National de Prevention et de Gestion des Crises Alimentaires' Early Warning System (Systeme d'Alerte Precoce – SAP) reported on 10 July that the situation is of concern in 56 out of 106 vulnerable zones monitored on a monthly basis Bulletin d'information de la CC/ SAP n° 102 du 10 juillet 2005 – Can be downloaded from www.humanitarianinfo.org/wesafrica/niger. With categorizations ranging from 'extremely critical' to 'relatively calm' the zones reported on in June covering the month of May 2005 are the following (see also the map below):

- 11 have been identified as extremely critical zones: Bambaye (Tahoua), Gorouol, Bankilaré, Dargol (Téra), Chadakori, Saé-Saboua (G. Roumdji), Bosso (Diffa), Kao (Tchinta), Anzourou (Tillabéri), Tondikiwindi (Ouallam) et Dan Gona (Illéla). Criteria : Less than one meal per day, consumption of roots, wild berries and leaves, sale of female cattle, belongings and production tools, migration of entire families in almost all villages in the zone.

- 16 were classified as critical zones: Dogon Kirya (Doutchi), Kokorou (Téra), Telemces (Tchinta), Kriguim (Gouré), Birni-Lallé (Dakoro), Guidan Roumdji (Guidan Roumdji), Barmou (Tahoua), Tirmini (Mirriah), Diffa commune (Diffa commune), Badaguichiri (Illéla), Guidiguir (Gouré), Farey (Dosso), Gueskérou (Diffa), Nord et Ouest Maïné (Maïné) et Tillabéri Commune (Tillabéri). Criteria: same as above, but not generalized to the whole zone.

- 1 was described as very difficult zone: Abala (Filingué). Criteria: migration of many families in some pockets of the same zone.

- 10 are difficult zones: Dirkou, (Bilma), Kantché (Matameye), Kornaka (Dakoro), Bouza, Allakeye (Bouza), Mokko (Dosso), Chétimari (Diffa), Arlit, Gougaran (Arlit) et Tambaye (Madaoua). Criteria: sale of belongings and production tools by many families in some pockets.

- 25 zones are in alert: Goudoumaria (Maïné), Garhanga (Keïta), Goudel-gorou (Commune Ny I), Soukoukoutane (Dogondoutchi), Yama (Illéla), Gangara (Tanout), Gangara, Aguié (Aguié), Gafati (Mirriah), Loga (Loga), Korgom (Tessaoua), Madarounfa (Madarounfa), Zagari (Gouré), Bilma (Bilma), Filingué Est (Filingué), Zinder Commune (Zinder), Sokorbé (Loga), Sarkin Yamma (Madarounfa), Tondikandia, Tagazar (Filingué), Karma (Kollo), Tahoua Commune (Tahoua), Guidimouni (Mirriah) et Tabotaki (Bouza). Criteria: same as above but by fewer families.

- 10 zones are relatively calm: Doungas (Magaria), Bandé (Magaria), Timéré (Commune Ny I), Saga-Gorou 1 (Com Ny II), Gouré (Gouré), Ourafane (Tessaoua), Sakoira (Tillabéri), Say (Say), Téra (Téra) et Ouallam (Ouallam).

- The remaining zones did not report to SAP in June on the month of May, but it should be noted that some were described as vulnerable in May.

In terms of coping capacities, migration of families and workers within the borders of Niger or to other countries in the sub-region has been observed. In some areas villages have temporarily been evacuated or half inhabited. There is currently no data available on the present location of these migrants or on their actual number. Recent reports suggest that a return of farming families to their villages of origin is taking place in order for the family to plant and work in the fields during the rainy season. Nomadic pastoralists have also been seen moving north again in small numbers since the beginning of the rainy season.


The lean season: April to October


3. Nutritional situation update

One child out of five under the age of five is affected by moderate malnutrition and is at risk of becoming severely malnourished in the near future if not assisted. Moderate malnutrition is estimated between 13.4% (PAM-HKI), 16 to 17% (UNICEF), 19.4% (MSF) depending on the location and the timing of surveys. Severe malnutrition is estimated between 2.4 and 2.9% in the most severely affected areas (Tahoua and Maradi) with rates similar to those of the worst conflict zones and emergencies in the world. It is estimated at as many as 150,000 under 5-year old children are affected by severe malnutrition among an estimated 800,000 malnourished children nation-wide.

At UNICEF, WFP and MSF-supported therapeutic feeding centres, admissions are rising exponentially. As of mid-July they are at least twice as high as those registered last year for the same period. And a further increase in malnutrition is expected until the end of the “lean” period which runs from the exhaustion of the food reserves in April until the new harvest in October. In Saga therapeutic feeding center run by Mother Teresa's sisters in Niamey as many children (612) were treated for severe malnutrition from April to June 2005, as during the 12 previous months.

Only few humanitarian and health sector partners present in Niger have the expertise and sufficient capacities to implement immediate intensive therapeutic feeding activities and to ensure the comprehensive and adequate coverage of the most vulnerable areas which is urgently needed to save lives of children affected by severe malnutrition.

The admissions in MSF-run therapeutic feeding centers (5) in Tahoua and Maradi are increasing again, after a short stabilisation period related to the planting activities prioritized by mothers instead of visiting the feeding centres. Since January 1st, 12,000 severely malnourished children have been admitted; 85% were healed and discharged, 10% were referred or dropped off, 5% died.

4. Cereals

As the local cereals (millet, sorghum) have become scarce items on the market in Niger and the sub-region as well as subject to speculation, prices have doubled compared to normal: 100 kg of millet may currently cost up to XOF 30,000 (~USD 60) compared to XOF 25,000 in May Source: SIMA and DCV/EPER. Investigations to track stocks of cereals in the private sector and by traders have shown that most warehouses are empty.

As an immediate response to this situation, the government of Niger has implemented emergency measures in the worst-affected areas, including the sale of 20,000 tons of subsidized cereals and the distribution of 20,000 tons in the form of loans to be paid back after the October harvest. In view of the seriousness of the situation as of mid-July, the Government and implementing will is also proceed with targeted distribution of free cereals to zones characterized as extremely critical.

5. Livestock

The limited availability of pasture and of fodder is endangering livestock (36% or 4.6 million tons deficit of animal fodder in 2004). Fodder remains very expensive. Cows, sheep, goats and camels, which represent the 'saving accounts' of agro-pastoralists and pastoralists are typically meagre, locked away in southern farming zone from pasture land in the north and sold at a dramatically low price, as they are plethoric and in a bad shape on the market. The monetary value of livestock compared to the equivalent in cereals has decreased between 42 and 55% SIMB. A cow is sold USD 10 in worst cases.

Dakoro, Filingué and Ouallam are the worst affected zones for livestock. The cattle fit enough for the journey is just starting transhumance to the north. No epidemics are reported, only food deficiencies and parasites.

6. Hydro-meteorological update

The rainy season started in June and seems to be reasonably satisfactory. Between 60 and 238 mm of rain fell on the agricultural land, in quantities above the average in most places compared to previous years' rainfall at the same date (1971–2000). Millet and sorghum have been planted in the farming area, except in 800 villages. Wells and ponds are refilling. Grass starts growing in agro-pastoralist areas. It should be noted that the rainy season increases the prevalence of malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, which usually have heavy impact on the nutritional status of children and increase the risk of severe malnutrition.

7. Pests

FAO / ECLO reported that 263 hectares infested with desert locust were treated in Tanout in June. Some immature adults are identified in Tamesna and Agadez. Other pests like caterpillars, grass-hoppers, 'cicadelles' and 'criocère' are reported by the national meteorological office.

8. Access to health

As elsewhere, the Bamako initiative is enforced to ensure the sustainability of primary health care at the community level without being run on public funds. However, with 61% of the population living with less than a dollar per day, only few can afford paying transport fees, consultations and medicines and as such have no access to health care.

9. Security

No clashes between farmers and pastoralists were reported since May 2005 when 11 persons were killed. The lack of pasture and fodder for livestock established on farming land, increases risks that they graze on planted fields and potential tensions between farmers and pastoralists.

10. Procurement & logistics

Partners are experiencing difficulties in procuring the necessary food commodities due to non-supplied markets and increase in prices, both in Niger and more generally in the sub-region, especially for the local kinds of millet and sorghum. Although WFP has recently purchased cereals in Togo and Nigeria, the UN is advocating before ECOWAS member states to facilitate procurement, transit and customs clearance of goods intended for Niger.

- In general, humanitarian actors in Niger recommended that in kind contributions be systematically topped off with transport and distribution costs. An alternative sale on local market of parts of an in kind contribution in order to cover storage, transport and distribution costs is not recommended, as it spreads rumours of food aid diversion and weaken social cohesion.

- The national food authority is currently receiving 13,000 MT of rice and will receive 23,500 MT of sorghum in early August. It requires financial support to cover logistics costs until these supplies reach the beneficiaries.

- WFP is expecting 6,500 MT of food commodities to be soon delivered in Niger and is ordering 23,000 MT of additional commodities following its recent appeal.

- UNICEF is airlifting UNIMIX (enriched floor of corn-soja blend to recuperate malnourished children). 45 MT transported from Europe with USAID/OFDA support just arrived. Transport costs for an additional 100 MT are uncovered.

- MSF is airlifting 600 MT of UNIMIX to distribute in the families with children in moderate malnutrition status.

- By mid-August, the Norwegian Red Cross intends to deploy a fleet of 70 M6 trucks (3.5 MT capacity) and 3-4 long haul trucks to transport food commodities for all requesting partners until the final destination, especially off-road. This logistical service will be coordinated by WFP, and run in partnership with NRC, IFRC and Red Cross society of Niger. It will operate for 6 months for the emergency period in Niger and then remain as a logistics capacity for the sub-region.

III. Humanitarian activities

Humanitarian actors are implementing a range of activities in the most affected area of the agro-pastoral zone (SW, S, SE) where most of the population is concentrated with the objective to save lives, to protect agricultural production tools/livelihoods and livestock and to promote the 2005 agricultural campaign.

1. Response to date by sector

According to reports received so far by OCHA, response to date includes the following.

Food and agriculture

- WFP is procuring 6,183 metric tonnes of food commodities. 502 metric tonnes of food commodities have so far been distributed to some 27,000 affected persons.

- UNICEF has purchased 614 metric tonnes of cereals to restock 61 cereal banks in affected areas.

- Since the beginning of the crisis, the national food crisis authority used 37,800 metric tonnes of cereals from its own stocks and funds and undertook the following activities: sale of cereals at subsidized price, distribution of 500 metric tonnes of cereal seeds, and 66 projects to mitigate the crisis (1,800 metric tonnes Food for work, Cash for work, cereal banks, fodder banks)

- FAO has distributed 110 tonnes seeds and 853 tonnes of fodder to some 10,000 households.

As a preventive and mitigating response to the situation, the government of Niger has since November 2004 used 42,000 tons of food commodities or the equivalent of USD 31.2, taken out of its buffer stocks and cash reserves. The intervention strategy consisted in covering 40% of the food deficit through:

- sale of cereals at a subsidized price (XOF 10,000 per bag of 100 KG; 32,000 MT)

- cereal banks (728 units with 7,075 MT)

- food for work (2,821 MT) in 355 sites of high intensity manpower work

- cash for work (USD 604,000)

- 67 nutritional recuperation sites supplied with 201 MT

- 157 fodder banks supplied with 2,915 MT

In collaboration with partners, the government is currently developing a distribution plan for 40,000 MT of additional food aid: 5,000 MT of rice available in warehouses; and 36,500 MT of food aid which is in the pipeline. Of the 40,000MT, 20,000 MT is planned to be allocated to free targeted food distribution, while the other half will be used for cereal loan operations to be paid back after the October harvest.

Health and nutrition

UNICEF has procured and distributed therapeutic food and essential drugs and dispatched them to 10 implementing partners on 15 feeding centres. UNICEF has furthermore undertaken training on the treatment of malnutrition for a group of 80 health workers and partners in the whole country.

UNFPA has provided supplementary nutrients to pregnant and lactating mothers, as well to women in Zinder and Agadez.

Coordination

UNDP supports the DNPGCA – the national body in charge of coordinating risk reduction, prevention and response activities to mitigate and manage food crises (Dispositif National de Prévention et de Gestion des Crises Alimentaires) by providing funds for coordination, logistical and information management.

OCHA has recruited a national officer to support the UNRC and the UNCT while its Regional Support Office continues to provide surge capacity to assist with information management and the appeal; in addition, OCHA is deploying additional staff from its headquarters in Geneva to enhance support to the UNRC and UNCT in advocacy, strengthening coordination arrangements, resource mobilization and financial tracking.

IV. Coordination and capacity building

1. Strategic level

The national body in charge of coordinating risk reduction, prevention and response activities to mitigate and manage food crises (Dispositif National de Prévention et de Gestion des Crises Alimentaires – DNPGCA) is the key coordination structure in Niger for preventing and managing food crises. It consists in stocks and funds: i) a joint fund of donors (FCD) to prevent food crisis through cereal banks and food for work activities, ii) a national buffer stock (SNR) of approximately 80,000 metric tons for emergency response, iii) a physical security stock of 40,000 tons of cereals (SNS), iv) a financial stock for food security (FSA) enabling to purchase 40,000 t of cereals.

It is managed by a joint commission (CMC) including the government (Prime minister's cabinet), donors and multilateral organizations. WFP represents the whole donor community in the commission. For the implementation of operations, it involves all relevant public structures under the Prime minister's cabinet chairmanship. A 'Comité restreint de concertation' is the strategic forum for decision-making. Bids for procurement of food commodities and seeds are selected among a special committee of partners.

The executive secretariat is facilitated by the food crises cell (CCA) in charge of the coordination of activities among partners. Weekly inter-agencies / NGOs coordination meetings have been started (Thursdays at 10:00 am) by the end of June, chaired by the Prime minister's cabinet and facilitated by the CCA, where needs are reviewed, information is shared on who is doing what and where, strategic decisions are discussed as well at this level (i.e. free food distribution versus loans of cereals).

The UN system is coordinated according to the usual set up by the Resident coordinator, country representative of UNDP, within the country team: WFP, FAO, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, FENU, World bank, IMF.

OCHA regional support office in Dakar is providing technical support upon request (Flash appeal, Situation reports, etc.) and is presently recruiting a national humanitarian affairs officer who will support the Resident coordinator in all humanitarian issues in liaison with the CCA.

An ad hoc national relief committee reporting to the Prime minister has been established to coordinate and supervise all assistance. At the departmental level committees form the interface for implementation.

2. Sectoral level

Food security coordination meetings hosted by Government are held on a weekly basis with UN agencies, NGOs, civil society and donors. These take place every Thursday at 10:00.

Nutritional sectoral meetings have also been established.

3. Capacity building

Interventions in nutrition and health include training of health workers on management of severe malnutrition. Interventions in food and agriculture include training of cereal banks committees.

4. Information management

The CCA has received support from UNDP (USD 50,000) to ensure that data, information, who does what where, etc. are properly and timely collected and consolidated for strategic coordination purpose. WFP has also identified a focal person to support these efforts in information management.

A web-based Humanitarian Information Portal for Niger has been set up on www.humanitarianinfo.org/westafrica/niger. The OCHA Regional Support Office has also in consultation with partners developed a Humanitarian Contact List and an Assessment Index providing an overview of assessments carried out in Niger year to date. Both are available at www.humanitarianinfo.org/westafrica/niger.

A Who-does-What-Where (W3), which includes a comprehensive data base and mapping of ongoing humanitarian interventions in the field is being consolidated by DNPGCA and le Cellule Crise Alimentaire of the Prime Minister's Cabinet (CCA).

Mapping of needs and priority areas is being carried out by the National Early Warning Unit (Système d'Alerte Précoce – SAP).

The European Commission is supporting an NGO in strengthening information collection on food security issues with an amount of € 1 million.

5. Advocacy

Visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

On 8 to 12 July, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Mr. Jean Ziegler from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Niger with the objective of assessing the current food crisis and report to the United Nations General Assembly whether the basic right for access to food and the legal obligation of the international community to deliver food assistance to a country failing in feeding its population are breached or not. His advocacy message to the media and to the international community delivered upon return to Geneva on 13 July urged donors not to neglect supporting the combined efforts of the Government of Niger, the United Nations, the NGOs and the civil society. He also reminded national authorities of their commitment to temporarily allow free access to health care in affected zones, a measure which is yet to be carried out.

6. Bridging relief and development

The UN Country Team has scheduled a UNDAF planning exercise for early 2006 which will be based on a new collection of indicators and data (MIX). The expertise of consultants involved in the traditional CCA exercise will be required in order to ensure an in-depth analysis. It may provide an opportunity to address some of the root causes which have led to the current crisis.

V. Maps



VI. Funding

The latest Financial Tables for Niger can at any time be viewed on-line at http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/dbc.nsf/doc105?OpenForm&rc=1&cc=ner.

For reporting on contributions, agencies and donors are encouraged to use the financial tracking system found on www.reliefweb.int or to email fts@reliefweb.int directly.

In order to receive daily IRIN updates on the food crisis in Niger via email, users may subscribe to IRIN on www.reliefweb.int/IRIN

To be included on or taken off the distribution list for the Humanitarian Situation Reports for Niger, or to contribute to the next report, kindly contact: Sofie Garde Thomle on thomles@un.org

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are not necessarily shared by the UN.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.