Saturday, May 26, 2012

cries for help - little hope

The people in the village of Goubeyday in Niger usually spend the vast majority of their meager incomes on food, so they don’t have enough money to compensate for the drastic increase in food prices at the market.

World Food Programme Niger Country Director Denise Brown said the World Food Programme has not yet been able to provide aid to the people of Goubeyday because of a lack of funding.

According to the United Nations, at least 15 million people in the Sahel region just south of the Sahara desert are affected.  Eight million are at serious risk of running out of food before the next harvest, and a million children’s lives could be threatened by severe malnutrition. Disaster declarations have been declared in seven of the eight affected countries.  Niger is the hardest-hit country, home to about half of the more than 8 million people WFP would like to help. The world’s largest aid agencies– including WFP, Oxfam, UNICEF, Save the Children, and World Vision– have seen this crisis coming for months.  By appealing for help early, they hoped to apply lessons learned from last year’s late response to the famine in the Horn of Africa to keep this crisis from becoming another catastrophe.  But few donors have responded, and most aid groups have raised less than half of the funds needed for their planned response.

Many in West Africa are pastoralists.  Many of them are nomads who roam to find pasture and water for their cattle.  Both are getting harder to find. “This is big, difficult situation.  Pastoralists must now sell many animals just to be able to buy a little cereal to survive,” said Hassane Baka of the AREN cattle breeders association based in the city of Maradi. “We are working too hard, walking too far,” said Amadou Damana as he worked with his family to draw water from a well in the district of Bermo. Damana said his cattle need water every day to stay healthy, but now he is barely able to give them water every other day because he has to walk them so far from the well to find land where they can graze.

At a nearby livestock market, extremely thin bulls and sheep are waiting to be sold. Trader Jodi Makau says the price for grain is so high, an animal sold this year can buy only half as much as last year.  He tells us it is a bad time for breeders to sell, but many are so desperate to buy food and animal feed they have no choice.

"I think we have to keep in mind these women, these mothers, they’re like you, they’re like me. There’s no difference. They have a child. They love that child. They will do what they can to protect that child,”
said Brown. “These women, these children, they deserve our attention.”

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