Thursday, July 07, 2005

Crisis in Desert Africa- What about this?

Hungry people flee Niger to Nigeria

HUNDREDS of hungry people are fleeing Niger Republic to Nigeria following failure of the Nigerien government to distribute free food to those hit by food crisis.
According to report, some 150,000 children are already malnourished while many others have been starved to death after poor rains and locust invasion devastated last year's harvest.
The chairman of the Food Crisis Committee, Seydou Bakary who said it was hard to identify those who really needed food, warned of a "nation-wide catastrophe" if this year's harvests are even slightly deficient.
Donors have largely ignored a United Nations (UN) appeal for funds to help the 3.5 million people going hungry in Niger.
Nigerian immigration officials say there has been a "substantial" increase in the number of people crossing from Niger.
"They are fleeing from the famine facing them," said Hassan Suleiman Kangiwa, head of the Nigeria Immigration Service in Katsina State.
He said that security had been beefed up at border post and that those without valid documents would be sent home.
Bakary, however, told journalists that the issue was being "politicised" and that the people always went hungry in one of the world's poorest countries.
"We should be cautious not to exaggerate the situation - there is chronic malnutrition throughout the country, even during the most productive harvests," he said.
According to the committee chairman, people are only eating once a day in some parts of Niger, and have started to eat wild plants because nothing else is available.
"It is almost impossible to identify with certainty the most vulnerable families in an area plagued by poor crops and food insecurity, which is why we will avoid free distribution of food until the situation demands it," Bakary said.
There have been protests in the capital, Niamey, of people who accused the government of ignoring the problems.
The Niger government had earlier said it would be "foolish" to distribute free food, as demanded by some 2,000 protesters recently in the capital.
More than 3.5 million people need food aid after poor rains and a locust invasion and some accuse the government of ignoring the crisis.
But a government spokesman, Mohamed Ben Omar said that its food stocks could not be handed out for free. The UN says it has not had a single pledge for money for its Niger appeal. Its Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has called for $16.2 million to buy food for those suffering from recurring drought and a locust infestation.
"What civil society is asking is poorly conceived and irrational. The state of Niger cannot engage in such a foolish adventure," Omar told journalists.
He said Niger's emergency food stocks had been built up carefully and would need to be replaced if they were given out.
Recently, some 2,000 people marched through, Niamey demanding immediate food aid.
One of the rally's organisers, Amadou Bello, said rice and millet were needed now because international aid would take too long to arrive.
"We are hungry" and "give us food", they shouted in front of parliament.
The organisers of the march, the Democratic Co-ordination of Niger Civil Society (CDSN), accuse the government of not doing enough to prepare for the "hungry season," which was bound to follow a poor rainy season last year.
The rainy season finished last October and it was obvious that supplies would not last through until the next harvest, they say.
Some children have already starved to death.


t said...

I met a beautiful little boy, a beggar from Niger, named Musa in Lagos last year. I thought
1. he's so smart and sooo cute and
later 2. people migrate to Nigeria for opportunity? (evil chuckle. ok, i have a weird sense of humour. this is serious.)

t said...

Fun facts:
In English: a Nigerian is from Nigeria, a Nigerien is from Niger (Niger, and Nigerien, take a roughly French pronunciation.)
In French, it's a marvelous soup of Niger- (ian, iane, ien, ienne) i think.

Busayo Michael Oluwagbemi said...

It is indeed very serious and shows how relative the word 'opportunity' is.

t said...

Some people say the starvation in Niger is due to "the rise of market forces." Please read on.

t said...

The World Bank Private Sector Development Blog:
This is where I found the link about market forces as well as a rebuttal, and the official response of the World Bank (food).

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