The long drought in Niger has taken a heavy toll on the region's livestock and pushed many herders to the brink of destitution as their animals die of hunger and thirst. Copyright: WFP/Francesco Manetti
Nowhere are the scars of drought in Niger deeper than in the pastoral Diffa region, where the bodies of sheep, cattle and even camels bare grim testimony to the hardships facing local herders. Their flocks dwindling and food prices rising, these families are among nearly 8 million people WFP plans to feed this year.
DIFFA – Just a couple of kilometers out of the town of Diffa and into the countryside, starts an unending trail of carcasses – mostly cows and sheep. A single one here, a group of three or four there; the smell is overwhelming.
The Diff animal herders who, by most estimates, have lost more than half of their livestock, say this year’s drought is not only worse than the one in 2005, but the worst in living memory. “Camels and donkeys are the most resistant animals of all, and when they start to do die, it’s a sign of how severe this crisis has become,” said Hassan Aldouido, coordinator of the Association for the Re-Activiation of Pastorlism in Niger.
Getting food to the hungry
WFP is scaling up its operations in Niger to reach almost 8 million people over the next six months with life-saving food assistance.
Why are people going hungry?
WFP's Director for West Africa, Thomas Yanga, has the answers
What's the hunger season?
The Niger Seasonal Calendar prepared by FEWS NET explains what it means and when it happens
Weathering the drought
Haji Adamou Haroun used to be a wealthy man with hundreds of different kinds of livestock. Now he only has about 40 goats left. “I had 200 head of cattle, but all of them perished except for one,” he says, pointing to an emaciated heifer lying on its side. "As you can see, this one is about to die, too."
His only means of supporting his family is by undertaking the three-day journey to the town market in Gouderan, in order to sell one or two of his goats in exchange for a few bowlfuls of millet, the local staple.
However, food prices have risen dramatically. Dari, a middle-aged woman who comes to the Zormodo town market once a week, says the price of millet has doubled over the last five months. “A 5-kg bag of millet used to cost 4,000 Francs (about USD $8.00). Now it costs more than 8,000 Francs.”
Like Haji Adamou, she has no other way to survive than to make the trip to market each week to sell off what few goats she has left. As many as two or three often die along the way.
“My five children and I can only afford to eat once a day,” says Dari. “It’s either supper or lunch, but we can’t have both. It’s as if we're permanently fasting.”
Dari, Haji Adamou and the hundreds and thousands of farmers and herders in this region are amongst the eight million people WFP plans to help with food assistance through to the end of the year. Large scale feeding programmes across the country will target young children in particular, who are most vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition.