“I'm scared that we won't have enough food...and that one of my children will die.” Halima has four children. Her husband has gone to Nigeria to look for work and promised to send money back but none has come through yet. She has been going to the nearest town to pound and sieve millet for people, for which she was allowed to keep the residue as payment. Halima and her children were eating once in the morning and once at night. "I always cook the residue in the evening so the children don't wake up hungry in the night," explains Halima. Millet residue is normally fed to animals and has no nutritional value at all.
Plan is providing support to families caught in a food crisis in Niger. A combination of poor rains, over-grazing, food price rises and insect infestation has left many rural families struggling to survive, especially in communities already weakened by 2010’s drought and hunger. Children, as always, are most vulnerable in situations like these. Over 280,000 boys and girls under the age of five are estimated to be malnourished.
Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries with high levels of child malnutrition. With an overwhelming proportion of the population relying on agriculture, the country is particularly vulnerable. The country regularly suffers from drought and annual hunger periods that last between the months of May and October. Thousands of people have died as a result in recent years. Usually the ‘hunger season’ begins in May but this year it is expected to start earlier. There is additional pressure as there has been an influx of refugees from Mali and Nigeria following political unrest.
We planned ahead, and have teamed up with local government workers and communities to tackle the problem before it gets significantly worse.
Saving lives by acting earlier
Plan’s emergency response in Niger is being implemented in two of the most affected areas: Tillaberi and Dosso. We will help in other areas if the need arises. We are distributing vouchers for food in rural communities, giving special nutritional support to under-fives, pregnant women and breastfeeding mums, and providing school lunches for children – a good way to reduce malnutrition and encourage children to come to school. More lives will be saved by acting earlier.
The whole region is braced for difficulties - Burkina Faso and Senegal are already facing depleted food supplies and in Mali the hardest months are expected to be July, August and September.
In the longer term, we will boost our work to help communities survive the food crisis, rebuild their lives and be more resilient in future, with vegetable garden projects, cereal banks for long-term food storage, and more nutritional help for mothers of young children.
We need your help
Please make a donation online or over the phone on 0800 526 848.
Find out more about our work in Niger.