It is all too often the case that reports of natural disasters and human suffering can only hold our attentions for the short-term. Niger’s current food crisis, which has been festering since 2005, serves to remind us that once the cameras have left and we turn our attentions elsewhere, suffering countries continue grapple with their burdensome plight.
Approximately 12 million Nigeriens – that is, 80 percent of the population –are affected by food insecurity, which means many families have access to as little as 10 days’ worth of food, having exhausted all other means of gaining income. You will see in our striking pictorial (latest news) that some have resorted to eating weeds, known locally as Garsia, in order to avoid starvation.
The rate of food insecurity in the West African country is believed to have tripled since last year, with horrific consequences for children. Recent statistics show that 17 percent of children under five years old are suffering from acute malnutrition and life threatening conditions. ‘In some areas, there is a 50 percent malnutrition rate for children under two. Many of these children will not survive,’ says Gianluca Ferrera, deputy director for the UN world food programme (WFP) in Niger.
It is a cruel paradox, then, that while families must journey and wait in the blazing sun to receive 100kg rations of food for seven people, Niger’s supermarkets are fully stocked. Yet basic supplies are unaffordable to the majority due to the abnormally high price of food.
The crisis, caused by factors such as pest infestations, drought-like weather and crop failure, will leave Nigeriens living in dire conditions and pinning hopes of recovery on the October harvest, which may produce little or no crops. Until the harvest, an estimated 7.8 million people are expected to endure the crisis without food reserves.
Christian Aid, among other charitable organisation, is working actively to highlight the severity of the crisis and to raise the money that is so sorely needed. However, donations have been slow to come or paltry, meaning that they are still USD107m shy of their target. It is for this reason that we are highlighting the endemic plight of Niger’s people. We hope that you will join us by offering your support and assistance in any way you can.