Emergency food aid operations will continue in Niger well into next year. That’s the word from the World Food Program, one of many agencies that responded to severe food shortages in parts of the country earlier this year. However, the WFP says it needs another 20 million dollars to pay for the extended food program.
Marcus Prior is a spokesman for the WFP. From Niamey, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the food situation in Niger. He says, “We’re obviously first of all very concerned that the world doesn’t forget about what happened in Niger earlier this year. And perhaps even more importantly it doesn’t forget the needs that remain in the country. Certainly, it’s quite clear that the harvest this year by most judgments was decent and that’s for a large part of the population it brought substantial relief after a very, very difficult period indeed. We, though, are extending our emergency operations for another three months into next year, until the end of March because very, very critical needs remain, in particular amongst young children. And that is why over the next few months, although we will be doing a number of different targeted distributions, the focus of our work will be to provide assistance to nutrition centers and make sure that the immediate nutrition needs of children who are in danger of slipping into severe stages of malnutrition are met. As well as those who are vulnerable like them, such as women who are pregnant, women who are nursing.”
Asked whether there are still large numbers of severely malnourished children in Niger, Mr. Prior says, “The treatment of severely malnourished children is not specifically the work of the World Food Program, but we are working together with a number of NGOs who are treating children suffering from malnutrition. About 150,000 children in total have been treated through the nutrition centers so far, the vast majority of those moderately malnourished. But we certainly would expect admissions to continue after what’s been a particularly hard year and the rainy season only just having come to an end. And having brought with it the highly increased risk of exposure to diseases.”