WFP scales up food aid to drought-stricken Niger

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is nearly doubling aid operations in Niger to feed eight million people who have lost crops and livestock in a severe drought.

“The drought in Niger is an unfolding catastrophe for millions of people,” WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said on Tuesday.

The food crisis in Niger has grown dramatically in the months since the last harvest in September 2009 and young children are under threat from malnutrition.

“We are massively scaling up special nutritional help for children under two years of age, whose brains and bodies face permanent damage from acute malnutrition,” Sheeran said.

The WFP aims to feed 7,9-million people through to the end of the year, up from 4,3-million previously.

The UN agency said the cost of the expanded operation was $213-million and at the moment it was barely half-funded.

While some food can be bought from neighbouring countries, it takes two or three months to deliver food procured further afield.

“To meet the needs of the people of Niger, we are looking for urgent and immediate cash contributions from our donors,” Sheeran said. “The months of August and September are critical.”

The WFP’s appeal follows a similar call by UN agency OCHA, which earlier this month increased the aid requirement for Niger to $253-million from $191-million.—Reuters

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