Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Niger's Hunger

A national survey of vulnerable households shows that 5.4 million people face food insecurity across Niger. Women have been left in charge of many of the households in the village of Zamkoye-Koïra, in western Niger, as food shortages have driven male family members to leave in search of work elsewhere.

"The men have gone to look for a way to feed the women and children left behind in the village, because there was no harvest at all this year," 40-year-old Bibata Mounkaïla told IPS. "We've eaten only once a day for several months," the mother of eight said, in the midst of making a simple porridge out of sorghum that will have to satisfy her family for the whole day. "The situation also means that our children are no longer going to school - the nearest one is in a neighbouring village, three kilometres from here."

Poor rains resulted in a deficit of more than half a million tonnes of grain and a shortfall of fodder for livestock of more than 10 million tonnes. The vulnerability survey, carried out in December 2011, found that more than a third of the population of 15.7 million are in a position of food insecurity - 1.5 million will face severe food shortages.

According to Eric-Alain Ategbo, the chief nutrition expert for the United Nations Children's Fund office in Niamey, the Nigerien capital. some 330,000 children are facing severe malnutrition presently, and nearly 700,000 more face moderate hunger. "We have seen 20,000 cases of malnourishment across the country, with 5,000 new cases recorded each week (in medical centres)."

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