The Government of Niger has estimated at least 2.5 million people are suffering from food shortages-with an estimated 80,000 children at risk of severe malnutrition in the country's east and north.
Vincent Turbat, World Bank Country Manager for Niger, said the crisis has hit the country's women and children the hardest. "The rain stopped abruptly at the end of 2004 and therefore the harvest was lower than expected," explained Turbat. "Then the locusts arrived and destroyed part of the harvest. So the existing malnutrition, insufficient rain and locusts led to the situation we have today. There are pockets now where people have no more food and they need to be helped until the next harvest, about mid September."
Emergency food funds
Turbat said the Bank has informed the Government of Niger it can use as much of the following funds for emergency food as necessary:
- Up to US$84 million under the international debt relief effort known as HIPC
- Up to US$40 million from the Bank's recently approved Public Expenditure Reform Credit and Grant.
- Turbat also added that the US$40 million, which includes US$11.7 million in grants, will be available to the Government of Niger early next week-with the government able to use as much as needed to help combat the food crisis.
In addition to that, the Bank is using $180,000 from a community driven development project already in existence in Niger to buy cereals. The cereals will be deposited in cereal banks-venues where villagers are usually able to buy cereals at a low cost.
Turbat said because of the crisis, people will be able to obtain the cereals-and will only have to repay the cereals after the next harvest.
The Bank has already financed the purchase of 550 metric tones of improved millet seeds worth about US$500,000, to distribute to people. Turbat says the money was made available under the Bank's Africa Emergency Locust Project, which was approved last year.
According to Peter Kristensen, senior environmental specialist in the Bank's Africa region, the Bank has also given its stamp of approval for the purchase of 850 tons of cotton grains for animal feed -worth about US$200,000.
Team flying to Niger
Kristensen, who is the task team leader of the Bank's Africa Emergency Locust Project, will be flying to Niger later this week to assess firsthand what further funding could be available under that project to help combat the current crisis.
He said the US$60 million Africa Emergency Locust Project- which covered seven African countries-was a clear cut example of the Bank's quick response to a crisis.
Advance money-US$12.4 million-was available to Niger and six other countries as early as last September to finance operational cost of locust control and relieve the impact on people affected by the locust plague. Today, country projects are fully underway in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal.
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