Targeted free food distributions begin as Niger's lean season bites

Published on 25 August 2006

WFP together with the Government of Niger, will today begin targeted free distributions of staple foodstuffs to the most vulnerable people to ensure that they have enough food through this year’s ‘lean season’ currently underway.

WFP together with the Government of Niger, will today begin targeted free distributions of staple foodstuffs to the most vulnerable people to ensure that they have enough food through this year’s ‘lean season’ currently underway.

The main challenge now is a long term one – helping to support social and economic development in Niger

WFP Niger Country Director, Sory Ouane

In an operation overseen by the National Food Security Mechanism (NFSM), under the government’s Plan of Action for 2006, at least 650,000 people will benefit from two rounds of distributions totalling 16,000 metric tons. Half the food aid is being provided by WFP.

“Recovery from a year as difficult as 2005 does not happen overnight,” said WFP Niger Country Director, Sory Ouane. “A significant proportion of the population are still struggling to get back on their feet, despite what was a good harvest at the end of last year. They need a safety net and, together with the government, we are providing it.”

Assessment

Almost half the people to benefit from the targeted distributions are in the severely affected region of Tahoua, with Maradi, Zinder, Tillaberi and Dosso regions also covered.

The distribution zones have been identified following one of the most exhaustive assessments ever completed in Niger, carried out in May 2006.

This assessment was led by the Government Early Warning System and the Institute for Statistics in collaboration with the Agricultural Markets Information System, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the financial assistance of the European Union and the French Cooperation.

Food security

Over 10,500 households were surveyed, providing the clearest picture yet of food security across the country.

In the first round of distributions, each household will receive 100 kg of cereals.

A second round of 50 kg of cereals per household will be completed by the beginning of October to see people through to the first harvests.

WFP is working with the government, UNICEF, other UN agencies and NGOs in a multi-track approach to addressing food needs as the annual ‘lean season’ peaks in the months of August and September.

Hunger measures

An additional 300,000 people not covered by targeted distributions but who live in areas poorly served by rural markets are already benefiting from the restocking or creation of village cereal banks.

Over the coming months, a further 200,000 women across the country will receive a family ‘discharge ration’ when their children complete treatment for malnutrition in any of the over 850 currently established feeding centres.

Another 234,000 children under the age of three will benefit from a blanket distribution of supplementary food in areas where malnutrition is most severe.

All nutritional activities are coordinated through the Ministry of Public Health and in collaboration with UNICEF.

With current in-country stocks, commodities in transit, and scheduled arrivals in August, September and October, WFP will be able to cover all planned distributions this year.

“Working together with the Government and the humanitarian community we are making a genuine impact. The main challenge now is a long term one – helping to support social and economic development in Niger,” said Ouane.