News / Africa

Red Cross Calls for Aid to Combat Severe Food Crisis in Niger

The International Federation of the Red Cross is asking for $1 million in international assistance to head off a severe food crisis in Niger that threatens more than seven million people.  

As many as 10 million people across the Sahel region in West Africa are facing food shortages in coming months caused by irregular rains and poor harvests in 2009.

Aid workers say Niger will be the hardest hit with more than half of its 15 million people at risk, most of whom live on less than one dollar a day.

The International Federation of the Red Cross is calling for almost one million dollars to assist 300,000 villagers in the country's most vulnerable areas; the Diffa, Zinder and Tahoua regions along the country's southeastern border.

Red Cross regional representative for Sahel countries, Daniel Sayi, says it is important to act now to head off a repeat of the 2005 food crisis in Niger, during which aid workers say delays in humanitarian relief led to needless deaths.

Sayi says in 2005, humanitarian response to the food crisis did not begin until after images of severely malnourished children in Niger appeared in international media.  He says today, in 2010, we have not yet reached this point, but all the warning signs for a similar severe crisis are there once this food shortage hits its peak in June, or possibly before.  He says we should not wait for a repeat of the images of 2005 in June before we act.

Some of the first warning signs came in mid-December when a study by Niger's government revealed that by the end of January, more than half of rural households would have already used up their stores of grain.  

The U.S. funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network says this January the number of malnourished children admitted to feeding centers in Niger jumped by 60 percent, compared to the same month last year.

Red Cross Disaster Management Coordinator for West and Central Africa Youcef Ait-Chellouche, says it is alarming that families were employing these emergency coping mechanisms as early as December, only months after the October harvest.

"Now already 20 percent of the population have exhausted their stocks, and they are trying to survive by sending people, part of their family, to other places to work and bring money back or by selling what is not necessary," said Youcef Ait-Chellouche.

Ait-Chellouche says even then it is the rich who can afford to travel via buses and taxis in search of food.

"The poorest in general stay where they are, and they try to face the situation as best they can, in general with a lot of mortality," said Ait-Chellouche.

In February, the International Federation of the Red Cross launched its nine-month relief operation with $200,000 of its own funds to support nutritional centers, distribute seeds and finance cash-for-work projects to boost food production in 120 villages in the three most at-risk regions along the country's southeastern border.

Ait-Chellouche says it is a question of intervening early in the crisis to prevent poor families from selling their belongings and leaving their communities in search of food.

In the long term, he says it will be important to introduce irrigation and new farming methods to make Niger's agricultural production less vulnerable to climate variability, like poor rainfall, and prevent future food shortages.   

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs