Niger: good harvest, malnutrition still high
FAO/WFP call for more assistance to avoid another food crisis
20 January 2011, Rome – A joint assessment by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) says that acute malnutrition rates in Niger remain high despite a good harvest.
The assessment, published today, urges the international community to continue to provide assistance to Niger so that these welcome gains in food production and food security are not reversed.
The Government of Niger, supported by the UN, launched a massive humanitarian intervention last year which averted the worst effects of a food and nutrition crisis that put more than seven million people in jeopardy and threatened the livelihoods of the country’s farmers and pastoralists.
As part of the humanitarian response to the drought, WFP delivered emergency food assistance to more than 5 million people, including vulnerable groups such as children under five, and pregnant or lactating women.
FAO provided 13 000 tonnes of animal feed and distributed over 3 400 tonnes of quality seeds, covering 94 percent of affected villages.
Cereal harvest up 60 percent
As a result of these interventions as well as a good rainy season in 2010, domestic cereal production increased by 60 percent and livestock that survived the drought were restored to health as pastures returned.
However, the acute malnutrition rate was still above 15 percent in most parts of the country in October and November, reaching 17 percent in the area around Agadez and Zinder.
Lack of access to health care facilities and extreme poverty pose further threats to populations on the frontline of the dire food security situation. Many families have been left in debt following the 2009/2010 food crisis.
“Food and non-food assistance is still necessary to reconstitute the resilience capacity of the affected populations to allow them to have independent access to food,” said the report.
FAO/WFP called for an improvement in family purchasing power in Niger by assisting pastoralists to replenish their livestock and boosting off-season agriculture such as vegetable and roots and tubers production.
Support feeding centres
The report also found a need to restore cereal banks, reconstitute the national grain stock and to support marketing chains. It also called for the continuing support of feeding centres for malnourished people.
It called for aid interventions to start immediately so that farmers will be provided with the necessary quality seeds and fertilizers before the next planting season that starts in May. Assistance is also required in the sphere of animal health and vaccines, the report said.