Niger: Food running out, families say

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 5 million in Niger don’t have enough food.

By Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S.
Published April 15, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Communities in west and east Niger estimate their food stocks will run out before the next harvest, according to field studies by a group of seven international aid organizations (pdf).

“Hungry season” has already begun

All families surveyed said they were already reducing daily consumption. In a typical year, the “hungry season” doesn’t begin until May or June.

The stress on family livelihoods has led to children dropping out of school in one-quarter of the communities surveyed.

Respondents said children left school to migrate with their families in search of work. Others said children were looking for work themselves or left because schools were no longer able to provide meals for students.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 15 million people in Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Senegal, and Burkina Faso don’t have enough food — more than 5 million in Niger alone.

The United Nations and aid organizations have appealed for $229 million in funding for Niger for 2012. So far, only 40 percent, or about $92 million, has been committed.   

Regional unrest makes situation worse

The situation has been made worse by violence in Mali and Nigeria and returnees from Libya.

A child in Niger drinks a watery porridge. Many families there have little else to sustain themselves. (Photo: Chris Sisarich for World Vision)Traditionally, during tough times, Niger’s men find work in Nigeria and send remittances home. But a series of bombings and killings by a radical group has prompted the government to seal borders with neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels in Mali is compelling tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Mauritania, Niger, and Burkino Faso, putting further pressure on host communities already suffering food shortages.

Food supplies have been drained further by about 90,000 mostly young men who have returned to the region following the rebellion that toppled Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.

“Poor villages have been overwhelmed with people, some expanding seven-fold in just a few months, with refugees forced to live in overcrowded homes and makeshift shacks,” said Chris Palusky, World Vision’s food crisis response manager for Mali and Niger.

“Time is running out to support host families before they themselves reach [a] breaking point.”

Learn more

Read more about the hunger crisis in Niger and across West Africa on the World Vision Blog.

Four ways you can help

Please pray for children and families running short on food. Pray for rains to return to this dry region, enabling a better harvest, and pray for critical assistance to reach those who are suffering most in the meantime.

Sponsor a child in Niger. Through sponsorship, you’ll help provide a child with life-giving necessities like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, education, and more. Sponsorship also supports emegency interventions during times of crisis.

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving food and care. Your donation will help deliver critical assistance to hungry children around the world, like emergency food aid, agricultural support, clean water, nutritional training, and more.

Contact your members of Congress. Voice your support for the U.S. International Affairs Budget, which helps fund programs that fight poverty, hunger, and disease. Making up only about 1 percent of the entire federal budget, there are few places in that budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.