from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 28 Apr 2010
(Zinder/New York, 28 April 2010): United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes participated today in the launch of a blanket feeding operation, a joint effort of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), working with the Government of Niger, international and national NGOs, that aims to prevent malnutrition among half a million children in Niger.

According to WFP, UNICEF and their partners, at least 900,000 children are at risk of moderate malnutrition and 378,000 of severe malnutrition over the next 12 months if urgent action is not taken to prevent the consequences of a worsening food crisis caused by drought. More than 50,000 children under five have already been registered in Niger's therapeutic feeding centres since January 2010.

Launched today in the department of Mirriah in Zinder, this program aims to prevent the deterioration of the nutritional status of children under two years of age, the most vulnerable group, by targeting communities with complementary feeding, training, screening and sensitization. This major operation will run from May to August throughout the country, except in the area of Niamey, for the first time in Niger. At least 500,000 children will receive the complementary food.

Mr. Holmes also visited a school in Kongomé, in the western part of Zinder, to look into the issue of school dropouts. According to UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, more than 19,000 children have left school across the country since the beginning of the year. This phenomenon is a consequence of the food crisis, which is causing entire families to move from rural to urban areas or to neighbouring countries, at a scale not seen before.

Humanitarian partners are struggling to secure urgent funding to procure food and other life-saving supplies to respond to Niger's growing food insecurity. Three weeks after the launch of the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan for Niger on 7 April, there is still a significant shortfall of $133 million.

"The situation is very serious but not yet disastrous. Humanitarian partners are already assisting vulnerable populations to mitigate the effects of the crisis, because the alarm was sounded early and more needs to be done quickly if we want to avoid the worst".

Mr. Holmes made an urgent appeal to mobilize the international community for additional financial resources. "We have to act now, even if in the long term, we know we also need to tackle the underlying causes of these emergency situations, the structural problems that lead to recurrent crises in Niger."

Tomorrow, Mr. Holmes will leave Niger to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he will visit Kinshasa, Bukavu, Dungu, Kisangani, Mbandaka, and Dongo to advocate for humanitarian action, the protection of civilians and the security of humanitarian workers.

For further information, please call:

OCHA-Niamey: Aurelie Lachant +227 20 72 61 04, mobile: +227 96 00 94 96,;

OCHA-New York: Stephanie Bunker, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 347 244 2106,; Nicholas Reader, +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117,,

OCHA-Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs, +41 22 917 2653, mobile +41 79 473 4570,

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