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Niger Faces Severe Food Shortages


People lining up for food distribution in Zinder, Niger

People lining up for food distribution in Zinder, Niger

Across the Sahel, more than 10 million people are affected by poor rains that have led to the collapse of agricultural and livestock production in many parts of Chad, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Sixty percent of Niger's population is facing severe food shortages.

At the Karakara II primary school in Niger's southern Mirriah district, women and children are registering for a blanket feeding program for all children between the ages of six months and two years. This will be their first food distribution since last year's poor rains cut Niger's cereal harvest by one-quarter and drove up the price of millet nearly 40 percent.

The U.N. World Food Program is doubling its estimate of the number of families in Niger who need food assistance. WFP is now targeting more than 1.5 million people for a general food distribution and as many as 500,000 children under the age of six for specialized therapeutic feeding.

The U.N. has stocks of rice, sugar, salt, oil, and beans in the administrative capital Zinder. But its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says it has raised less than a third of the $190 million it needs to respond to the crisis in Niger.

Children under two in the Mirriah district will receive a four-month ration of sugar, oil, and a nutritionally-rich blend of corn and soybeans.

The registration also allows aid workers to gauge the level of malnutrition in the community. The program is being conducted by the local aid group Karkara.

Youssifi Midou Bawa is Karkara's director of technical operations:

"The children come and they are measured to see who is malnourished," said Youssifi Midou Bawa. "The children who are severely or moderately malnourished are referred to the local medical center where they get supplemental feeding."

The U.N. children's agency says at least 200,000 children in Niger face severe acute malnutrition that will require hospital treatment.

In a region where malnutrition is affecting more than one-quarter of the population, officials at this feeding center say they have supplies to feed only half of those affected.

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