The United Nations food aid agency has announced plans to scale up its operations inside the poor West African country of Niger, where a poor harvest and insect attacks against cereals have left a million people in need of immediate support.
Gaëlle Sévenier, a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), told reporters in Geneva that $60 million is required to fund food aid interventions for the most vulnerable over the next six months, as the country grapples with an estimated deficit of 500,000 tons of cereals.
The number of people in need could rise to two million by the end of next year, she said.
The expanded food aid operation will be mainly carried out through cash and food-for-work projects, and boosting nutrition for children under the age of two, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The WFP relief effort already reaches, on average, half a million vulnerable people per month.
Frequent droughts in Africa’s Sahel region have meant that communities are being hit by shocks even before they have had time to recover from previous food crises. Vulnerable families are increasingly finding it difficult to replenish their household food stocks or build up their livestock herds, according to WFP.
The return of an estimated 200,000 migrant workers who used to send remittances to their families in Niger from Libya and Cote d’Ivoire has not only weakened the local economy, but has created an additional burden on communities already struggling to feed themselves.
The agency said it was also closely monitoring the situation in Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. In Mauritania alone, an estimated 700,000 people are facing severe food shortages.