Niger

Niger: Swiss action to fight the famine in Niger

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Anticipating the appeal of the United Nations for help to fight the famine in Niger, the SDC's Humanitarian Aid Department has allocated nearly CHF one million since May to provide emergency food aid to the West African country. In addition to its development cooperation programmes in Niger, the SDC has paid CHF 832,000 for assistance activities for the 3.3 million people most affected by the drought. This figure represents 35% of the total population of the country.

As complements to the development programmes of the SDC Cooperation Office in Niger, these assistance activities are durable components, firmly anchored in the local pastoral and agricultural communities and implemented in close collaboration with local NGOs and the World Food Programme.

Niger experienced a crisis in its food situation in 2004 when the early arrival of the rainy season last summer led to the hatching of swarms of locusts. The devastation of crops by the locusts was compounded in the autumn by the abrupt end to the rain which wiped out fodder production in large areas of the country. This resulted in a sharp increase in the price of grain and serious declines in cattle and goat herds. The situation left the people extremely vulnerable.

To offset the continuing rise in the price of grains and the fall in the price of cattle and to try to prevent a new mass exodus of people, the SDC took the initiative in the spring of 2005 by increasing emergency assistance to Niger. Through financial allocations to international organizations, notably the World Food Programme (WHO), and to government and non-governmental partners in Niger, the SDC has contributed to the implementation of several programmes in the following sectors:

- Increasing the security of vulnerable groups;

- Stabilizing the numbers of cattle and goat herds;

- Preparing the groundwork for the next harvest.

Concretely, the money contributed by the SDC to support measures by the Niger authorities will permit

- an easing of the living conditions of breeders by enabling them to acquire staple foodstuffs at favourable conditions;

- a part of the cattle herds to be saved by reducing the need to sell them extremely cheaply;

- work to be started to recover the productivity of the land by planting yams and cassava;

- work to go ahead on the improvement of communication routes which are impassable during the rainy season.

At this time, the SDC operation is aimed at helping 4,400 members of pastoral families and around 100 cattle herds survive through the summer until the autumn harvest. It will ensure that the people will stay in their living area by providing them with sufficient means of subsistence. It will prevent the malnutrition of the children and pregnant women. And finally it will provide the people with seeds to begin the next growing season.