Niger’s government needs another 45 billion CFA francs in food aid after a new survey found 500 000 more people than previously thought will face severe food shortages this year, the government said.
The new survey, carried out in April and published yesterday, showed that 3.3 million people, or 22.2 % of Niger’s population, are facing severe food insecurity. Previous estimates put the figure at 2.7 million.
Niger’s military rulers have spoken more openly about the food crisis than President Mamadou Tandja, whom they ousted in a February coup.
The food shortages are crippling the poor uranium exporter, as well as millions more across Africa’s Sahel.
“Today, Niger needs more than ever the massive support of everyone to tackle the crisis,” interim Prime Minister Mahamadou Danda told donors in an appeal late on Wednesday.
In the past, food security has been politically sensitive and, during the previous crisis in 2005, Tandja resisted recognising there was a problem until the media glare made his position untenable.
Estimates for numbers of people facing moderate vulnerability were revised down to 3.8 million, or 25.5 % of the population, from a figure of 5.1 million, which came from a December survey.
One aid worker said the new figures for severe food shortages showed the situation was “even more serious and required a greater and urgent response”.
Thousands of families have gone on the move in search of food in Niger, after poor rains last year led to failed harvests and the lack of fodder for animals.
By April, the UN had only received one third of the $190 million it said it called for from donors. Aid agencies have said they need to start work in June or July to stave off serious problems.
“The UN and its partners will have to update their emergency humanitarian action plan in the coming weeks to take into account the new figures”, Aurelie Lachant spokeswoman UN Humanitarian agency (OCHA) Niger.
UN aid chief John Holmes, who visited Niger last month, is due to travel to neighbouring Chad this weekend in an effort to draw attention to the broader crisis, which will affect millions of others in the region outside Niger.