Save The Children went on record yesterday to say that 400,000 children face starvation in the region and asked for the world to help. Over 2,400 children visited Save The Children clinics last week with severe malnutrition.
From the Independent, writer Andrew Johnson gives us the details about the latest aid appeal.
Aid agencies warned yesterday that 10 million people are already facing severe food shortages, particularly in the landlocked countries of Chad and Niger, after a drought led to the failure of last year's crops. As many as 400,000 children are at risk of dying from starvation in Niger alone, according to Save the Children.
Now unusually heavy rains have washed away this year's crops and killed cattle in a region dependent on subsistence agriculture. Organisations including Oxfam and Save the Children say that the slow international response to the emergency means that only 40 per cent of those affected are receiving food aid. As many as four out of five children require treatment for malnutrition in clinics.
Such is the shortage of international aid that the United Nations World Food Programme has had to scale back its £57m operation to feed eight million people in Niger and instead concentrate its efforts on the most vulnerable – children under two – according to Oxfam.
Save the Children says the increased malnutrition rate could swiftly be followed by an increase in the number of children dying from disease because of floods in Niger caused by heavy rain over the past few weeks. "Stagnant pools of water have been contaminated by animal carcasses and are a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. This has increased the threat of malaria, respiratory disease and diarrhoea – the biggest killers of young children," the organisation said.
"After six months without proper nutrition, these children have little resistance to disease," said Severine Courtiol, Save the Children's Niger manager. "There is little children can do to avoid coming into contact with this contaminated, disease-ridden floodwater. That's why it's critical we make sure they get enough food so they are strong enough to fight off and recover from sickness."
Robert Bailey, Oxfam's west Africa campaigns manager, said that some food was available in marketplaces in Niger, but was too expensive for ordinary households to afford. As a result, many were reduced to eating leaves and berries.