Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More details on the Niger food crisis

Yesterday, we linked to a press release from Oxfam about the cutbacks in food distribution to the poeple of Niger. The World Food Programme has to now pick and choose which families receive food because of a lack of money. The WFP will only give food to families that have children younger than two years old. This cut back occurs as Niger is in the middle of a food crisis and the next harvest is still two months away.

From this IPS article, writer Ousseini Issa gives us more details on the lack of aid.

WFP aid will now only be distributed to families with children under the age of two, who will receive 50 kilogrammes of grain, less than is necessary for families of seven or more, according to information released by Oxfam, which distributes food for the WFP.

"This is an appalling situation," Oxfam Deputy Regional Director in West Africa Raphael Sindaye said. "We have known about this crisis for months and yet more than a million people in Niger will continue to starve over the coming weeks and perhaps months."

Through Oxfam alerted the international community to an impending regional famine as early as November of last year, Robert Bailey, Region Campaigns and Policy Manager in West Africa for Oxfam, said there was a sluggish response from donor nations.

"International systems didn’t invest enough in the response," Bailey said. "[Donors] didn’t step up until July, which is too slow. The money is just not available."

Under the new plan, about 60 percent of the affected population will be left to rely on aid from the Nigerien government, which Bailey said does not have the capacity to meet their needs.

"There are very little government resources available," Bailey said. "The logistic pipelines are just not there."

With the 2010 harvest still two months off, Niger is now at the peak of its food crisis, but Bailey said the WFP plans to double food rations in September in response to this month’s shortfall.

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