Aid agencies in scramble to help famine-hit Niger

The World Food Programme announced that a much-needed airlift of food commodities from Réunir, a French aid agency, had arrived in Maradi, one of the hardest-hit areas of the country.

An estimated 3.6 million people are highly vulnerable and 2.5 million are in need of food aid. But more than 150,000 children may now starve to death before they get access to emergency food and medication.

Jan Egeland, the under-secretary general of the UN, said yesterday that if the international community had responded to Niger's appeals for help last year, a child could have been saved from malnourishment for as little as $1 (57p) a day. Now, it will cost eighty times as much to save each of the 150,000 children who are on the verge of starving to death. He said: "We will get funding for Niger, images are coming out of children dying. But it is too late for those who are severely malnourished and dying."

Both rich countries and the government of Niger have been criticised for ignoring the plight of 3.5 million people who were left without food after a plague of locusts and a drought destroyed their crops last year. The Niger President, Mamadou Tandja, has visited the worst-hit areas in the south of the country to assess the situation personally, after the government had earlier refused to donate free food to the starving. The government had downplayed the danger of famine to secure the presidential elections held at the end of last year.

Meanwhile Oxfam has launched an appeal to raise £1m for the region - it wants to distribute food vouchers to 130,000 people and help 28,000 herders to buy new animals to replace those that starved to death. Others are providing oil, maize and a nutritionally fortified peanut butter paste to the thousands of people who have walked for several days to reach feeding centres.

The British Government has so far donated £2m. Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, said: "There is now a substantial humanitarian operation under way."

France, Niger's former colonial power, has said it will give a total of €5m (£3.5m). The UN first warned of a food crisis in Niger in November last year, but received almost no funding. It has since raised $11m - a third of the total it needs to manage the situation.

Niger, a landlocked, desert country, suffers from frequent crop failure and its people endure food shortages every year, but last year's locusts and droughts destroyed entire harvests in the south of the country.

Environmentalists said that the rains could fail again this October, spreading the famine across other regions.

Toby Porter, from the charity Save the Children, said that as the second poorest country in the world, Niger exists on the brink of disaster. "We can't allow people to live in such a state of poverty that it just takes this minor shock to tilt children and their families to this dreadful state," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral