Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mass exodus from drought stricken central Niger

Over 10 million people are facing hunger in Niger after water shortages from last year meant failed crops and not enough food for this year. Thousands of people from central-southern region of the country are fleeing to the city or Maradi to find work for food, some are even going further onto Nigeria.

From this AFP article that we found at the Vancouver Sun, writer Boureima Hama describes the intense hunger situation in Niger.

As the UN's humanitarian chief John Holmes arrived in the country on Monday, aid agencies said nearly eight million people — more than half the population — were facing food shortages.

"I had to leave Chadakori, my village, where the younwa (hunger) is spreading desolation," said Balkissou, a young woman begging in Maradi's dusty streets.

Her wire-thin body lost in her dress, Balkissou said her village north of the city is "almost empty", save for those too old or too young to leave. She carried plastic bags of food scraps she had collected to send home to her six children.

For months, the city's bus station has become a magnet for refugees from across the entire central-southern region of Niger, where severe water shortages laid waste to crops last year.

"We know that this crisis is only just beginning," Holmes warned after holding crisis talks with the leaders of Niger's transitional government.

Holmes said his agency still faced a shortfall of 130 million dollars for an emergency appeal issued for Niger by the United Nations, which is seeking 200 million dollars (150 million euros).

Echoing his concerns, the UN World Food Program announced it was doubling the number of hungry people it feeds in Niger to 2.3 million people.

"Niger has been hit extremely hard by the drought and the world has to act to prevent massive human suffering and the loss of a generation," WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said.

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