Aid agencies earlier this year revealed that tens of thousands of people died needlessly last year in the Horn of Africa because aid donors waited until people started dying to respond. Now agencies hoping to prevent a similar famine in the landlocked West African nation of Niger are having trouble getting aid donors to take notice. More than 5 million people in the Sahel region are facing famine and aid agencies want to move early before the dire situation becomes a crisis. Signs of the looming famine in the Sahel were first detected late last year - that is when aid organisations started issuing pleas for help.But selling the prevention message is never easy when there are not corpses to go with it.
Denise Gibson, the World Food Program's country director in Niger, says the situation is urgent.
"What we've seen in over the past couple of months is a steady deterioration in the food security situation. The poorest people ... their situation is not getting any better, it's getting worse. People are still eating, they are eating wild leaves, they are eating wild berries, we don't want them to be eating that, but they are still eating," Ms Gibson said.
And when they run out of wild leaves and berries?
Once again it is reported that there here is food in the markets in Niger, but people do not have the money to buy it.
In the predominantly rural economy, where 80 per cent of people rely on subsistence agriculture to survive, a succession of droughts has sapped the funds of most people. Oil has recently been discovered in the Niger and it is set to become the world's second-largest uranium exporter, but for the moment many of its people are struggling to survive.