Rome - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said it is massively scaling-up its food assistance operation in the west African state of Niger to feed up to 8 million hungry people who have lost crops and livestock due to a particularly severe drought.
"The drought in Niger is an unfolding catastrophe for millions of people and we are struggling against time to scale up quickly enough to reach the escalating number of hungry,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, who arrives in Niger today at the start of a fact-finding mission. “I want to see for myself the scale of the needs in Niger and the challenges in WFP’s huge ramp-up of hunger operations – especially those targeting vulnerable young children.”
The food and nutritional crisis in Niger has grown dramatically in the months since the last harvest in September 2009. A national Nutrition and Child Survival Survey released in June showed that young children are under particular 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 added.
Working with the government and NGO partners, WFP has been expanding its operations to the point where it now aims to feed 7.9 million people through to the end of the year. WFP is deploying rations in Niger that include highly nutritious food supplements such as enhanced corn-soya blend and Plumpy’doz – a paste made of peanuts, oil, sugar and milk fortified with vitamins and minerals to help to address the nutritional needs of young children.
“For young children in Niger, the food we are providing is literally a life-saver,” Sheeran said. “But we are also taking measures to provide for the wider families so that nobody goes short, and the special nutritionally enhanced products we are providing for the very young can pack the optimum nutritional punch.”
The cost of WFP’s expanded operation in Niger is US$213 million and at the moment it is barely half –funded. While some food supplies can be purchased from neighbouring countries in the region, the normal lead-time to deliver food that is procured further afield is between two and three months.
“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, and I am urging our supporters to help us mobilize the resources we need to feed the millions of hungry in Niger.”
For Further Information:
Caroline Hurford, WFP/London, Tel. +44-20-72409001, Mob. +44-7968-008474
Emilia Casella, WFP/Geneva, Mob. +41-792857304
Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob. +1-646-8241112