"The situation is desperate. Even the limited food that is available has soared in price rendering it unaffordable for most families and there is no hope of any harvest for at least three months. Families are feeding their children grass and leaves from the trees to keep them alive," said Natasha Kafoworola Quist, Oxfam Great Britain's Regional Director for West Africa, currently in Niger.
UN appeals remain dangerously under-funded with only one third of the money needed from international donors pledged. In many cases, even the pledges that have been made have not translated into money arriving. The failure to fund these appeals is putting lives at risk.
Oxfam experts in Niger are setting up a $2 million food support program. Vouchers will be distributed to 130,000 people which can be traded for food with local traders. Plans are also in place to help 28,000 nomadic herders to buy new animals for a fair price.
"Oxfam's program is saving lives but in the face of the level of need, this is just a drop in the ocean. Almost four million people need food aid now. The UN appeals need immediate funding to ensure that all those in need receive help," said Quist.
The World Food Program (WFP) increased its appeal on July 12th asking for a further $12 million to help the people in Niger to make it through the next three months. The UN emergency appeal for $18.3 million, launched in May, remains less than a quarter funded. Between them, the appeals are two thirds under-funded, with a total funding shortfall of $26.5m.
"The UN needs money now. Every day that the world's richest countries look the other way, more people face starvation. They have to put their hands in their pockets before it's too late," added Quist.
Last year's locust invasion and rain failure during the agricultural season have plunged nomadic herder and farming families into crisis. Emaciated livestock, worth nothing, cannot be sold. The price of cereals has more than doubled and no staple foods are available in the markets.
Notes to Editors
The UN emergency flash appeal for Niger for $18.3 million was launched in May 2005. It remains less than a quarter funded, with a shortfall of $14.7m.
To arrange an interview with Natasha Quist, Regional Director for West Africa, please call Kate Pattison on 0044 1865 312 498 or 0044 7967 984 634