The United Nations needs an extra $133 million to tackle food shortages and malnutrition in Niger that have already triggered massive displacements of people from their villages, the world body said.
Some 7.8 million people, or nearly 60 % of the West African country’s population, are running out of food after erratic rainfall last year caused crops to fail, according to a national survey conducted in December.
Relief groups say Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, is the centre of a wider food crisis in the sub-Saharan Sahel region that could be the worst in at least five years.
“It is more than the right time to take serious humanitarian action,” Khardiata Lo N’Diaye, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Niger said in a statement. The United Nations said it needs the cash to reach a target of $190 million for the Niger crisis.
The world body forecasts more than 1.5 million cases of malnutrition in children under five in the next year unless urgent action is taken. Another 35 000 cases of malnutrition are expected among pregnant and lactating women, it said.
The requested funds would support emergency distribution of food, water, and medical treatment after the government of Niger called for international help with the crisis in March.
Food shortages have already drive masses of people to flee rural areas into towns and neighbouring countries and emptied schools in the severely affected south eastern regions of Zinder and Diffa, according to UN officials.
Food shortages have also hit neighbouring Chad, where authorities said 2 million people were at risk. Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria are also facing food shortages.
UNICEF says more than 850 000 children under five will need to be treated for severe acute malnutrition in the Sahel requiring $50 million in aid, of half of which is available.
The Sahel region has been plagued by cyclical droughts and severe food shortages since the 1970s. The most serious food crisis in the last decade occurred in 2005, affecting millions in Niger, Nigeria, and Mali.
Pic: WFP in Niger