Red Cross launches nutritional distributions in Niger

Niamey, Geneva, 4 August 2005 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an initial distribution of supplementary food aid in the hunger-stricken West African nation of Niger.

A localized distribution of enriched flour (Unimix), targeting 90 vulnerable children under five years of age, was carried out on 1 August in the commune of Bambeye, west of the town of Tahoua. In Niger, the International Federation is seeking to assist 23,000 moderately malnourished children in four of the worst hit provinces: Tahoua, Maradi, Zinder and Agadez.

"I'm excited that we've started getting the supplies to the people who need it," said International Federation nutritionist Mija Ververs, who oversaw the operation.

The Red Cross Red Crescent has been coordinating with the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children's Fund and non-governmental organizations specializing in the treatment and feeding of acutely malnourished children.

In close collaboration with colleagues from the Niger Red Cross, the International Federation has established operational bases in four provincial capitals, which will send mobile feeding centres into the surrounding countryside. Larger-scale distributions, amounting initially to 138 metric tonnes of Unimix over the next month, are due to begin shortly.

On 22 July, the International Federation launched an appeal for 18 million Swiss francs (€ 11.5 million, US$ 14 million) to help avert widespread starvation in Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. Almost 8 million people in the Sahel region are threatened by severe food shortages.

The International Federation and a number of member National Red Cross Societies, including the British, Danish, French and Spanish Red Cross Societies, have deployed relief delegates, nutritionists, doctors, logisticians and telecommunications experts as part of the operation. The first 20 of 70 Norwegian Red Cross all-terrain trucks and drivers, which will transport essential supplies, are due to arrive in Niger shortly.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Niger: Mark Snelling, Information delegate Tel: +227 53 77 05 / +870 764 138 010
In Dakar: Raphaël Lambal, Regional Information officer Tel: +221 869 36 28 / + 221 654 56 56
In Geneva: Roy Probert, Media Officer, Geneva Tel. + 41 22 730 4296 / +41 79 217 33 86
Media Service Duty Phone Tel: + 41 79 416 3881

The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 181 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.