As Food Crisis Deteriorates in Niger, World Vision Expands Response

  • Aid agency says annual “hunger season” began early this year
  • 1.5 million children suffering from malnutrition throughout Niger

    Niamey, Niger, July 23, 2010World Vision has received a $1 million grant from the United States’ Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to implement an emergency nutrition intervention in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries and battling its worst food crisis in years. At one of World Vision’s malnutrition screening centers in Koma Bangou, 53 cases of severely acute malnutrition were identified in a three-week period. In 2009, the same center identified just 22 cases in the entire year.

    “This is the worst food shortage we’ve seen in Niger since 2005,” said Judy Moore, World Vision’s emergency response director in Niger. “We’ve even heard reports of parents feeding their children ‘galgu,’ a plant normally used to feed cattle, because they can’t find anything else to eat.”

    The grant will fund treatment for nearly 28,000 malnourished children in the Maradi and Tilaberi regions of Niger over the course of one year. Currently, 58 percent of Niger’s population is severely food insecure, and 1.5 million children under 5 are suffering from malnutrition.

    In April, as the crisis began to escalate, World Vision scaled up its emergency response programming. In partnership with the World Food Program, World Vision is distributing food in the Maradi and Tahou regions and has restocked 32 cereal banks with 320 metric tons of cereals to be sold at a subsidized price in seven of World Vision’s most affected program areas. These interventions are expected to increase food availability for more than 500,000 people. World Vision is also partnering with the Food and Agricultural Organization to distribute seeds for the planting season to 10,000 households throughout Niger.

    “There aren’t many places in the world where you have an annual ‘hunger season,’ but Niger is one of them,” said Moore. “Unfortunately, this year, poor harvests and a lack of rainfall meant the hunger season began earlier than usual.”

    Niger’s ongoing food insecurity is a result of both a poor harvest because of last year’s erratic rainfall and the fact that much of the population lacks enough income to purchase food for their families. The cereal harvest has fallen by 30 percent and pasture, essential for livestock herders, has fallen by 60 percent.

    World Vision began working in Niger in 1995, helping those affected by drought. Today, the organization is serving in five regions, with programs benefitting more than 600,000 people each year.

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