- Title: NIGER: UN humanitarian chief visits famine-stricken Niger
- Date: 30th April 2010
- Summary: TANOUT, 142 KM FROM ZINDER, NIGER (APRIL 27, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MALNOURISHED CHILDREN IN A NUTRITION EDUCATION AND RECOVERY CENTRE (CRENI)
- Embargoed: 15th May 2010 13:00
- Location: Niger
- Country: Niger
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA3TK0PM1YZXMN2NQ1RVFZGKEMC
- Story Text: Niger's food crisis is deteriorating but the west African nation is better prepared to face it, in part due to better government cooperation, U.N. humanitarian chief said.
Erratic rainfall last year devastated crops and livestock herds, leaving millions of people hungry in the uranium producer nation, where at least 7.8 million people, or nearly 60 percent of the population, will be threatened with severe food shortages this year.
The agricultural and pastoral production has collapsed and the U.N. predicts some 10 million people will face food shortages in the Sahel, a region south of the Sahara that has been caught in cycles of similar crises.
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes, who visited a Nutrition Education and Recovery Centre (CRENI) on Tuesday (April 27), said the international community needs to intervene in a bid to prevent further deterioration.
"What I'm afraid of is that with the progress of this crisis, with the lack of rain, the lack of harvests, this has the potential to deteriorate really quickly. We need to be prepared for this," Holmes said in the town of Tanou, some 1,000 km (600 miles) east of the capital Niamey.
"We are seeing a lot of more acute cases than moderate cases of malnutrition compared to past years," added Marie David, a doctor at the centre.
In Dalli, more than 1,000 km (600 miles) southeast of Niamey, many people have abandoned their homes in search of food, while others who remain are harvesting green fruits from usually inedible plants.
The teacher in Dalli said 15 children left the school last week alone. Skinny cattle and goats stood in the sun next to Chinese workers constructing a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline project in the region.
Fadji, an old woman in the village of Dalli, said she hasn't been able to harvest anything in four years because of the drought.
"We are only eating the Anza berries we can find in the bush. It's very difficult to cook them, as you need to dry them first and wash them several times before cooking them, which can take hours. The fruit are so bitter that even animals don't like eating them. It's four years now since we've last been able to have a harvest on our field because of the drought," she said.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says less than a third of the $190 million it is seeking from international donors to respond to the crisis has been raised.
Touring the area, Holmes said the Nigerien government was cooperative and pledged to raise the money needed to avoid the crisis from spreading
"After this visit I will be in a better position to reinforce our plea for aid from our donors, here in Niamey but also more importantly in New York, so that the financial resources start to arrive immediately, because we need to intervene now to avoid this growing into a bigger crisis in due course," Holmes said.
Droughts are recurrent in the Sahel and experts say they could become more frequent due to climate change, leading to further humanitarian crises, if agricultural policies are not improved.
In the United Nations' 2009 human development index, Niger ranked last out of 182 countries covered.
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