Although global aid has helped to stem Niger`s food crisis which has affected nearly half of the country`s population, more help is needed to ally its longer-term effects, the top United Nations humanitarian official has said while on a visit to the impoverished Sahelian nation.
“We may have avoided the worst, but we must learn the lessons and support longer-term preparedness and development efforts to prevent the increasing frequency of food crises in the country,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said yesterday in the capital, Niamey, on the second day of her trip to Niger.
During her meetings with top officials and representatives of donor countries and humanitarian agencies, she noted that the financial response, expertise of relief organizations and positive Government engagement have helped to alleviate the crisis, which has touched some 7 million people and affected thousands of cattle, the mainstay of livelihoods.
An emergency appeal for $358 million was launched in April, with $225 million having been received so far, allowing aid agencies to carry out food, farming, water and income-generation projects. Some 220,000 children under the age of five have also been treated for malnutrition.
Relief groups predict the crisis` impact will be felt into next year, with some 10,000 children admitted every week into specialized feeding centres and families struggling to make up for cattle lost.
Niger has faced periodic food crises in the past three decades, with the last coming in 2005, when more than 3 million people were threatened by severe hunger.
Ms. Amos` visit, her first to Africa since taking up her position last month, is intended to draw the world`s attention to the Sahel, a West African sub-Saharan region that is home to the poorest countries on Earth, with over 10 million people experiencing hunger this y ear alone.
While in Niamey, the UN official also stopped at flood-affected communities. Although most of the waters have receded, she took note of the growing phenomenon of climate-induced disasters.
Niger is a desert country where rain is typically scarce, but is one of the countries hardest hit by flooding in West Africa this year, affecting nearly 230,000 people.