The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is now appealing for 3.6 million Swiss francs (3.3 million US dollars/2.7 million euros) to provide critical and potentially life saving assistance to 384,998 people across Niger.
This represents an increase of about 2.6 million Swiss francs compared to the IFRC’s initial emergency plea in March. It reflects a worsening situation for millions of Nigeriens. A new assessment released by Niger’s government in May revealed that the severe food insecurity rose from 2.7 million as previously thought last December to 3.3 million people now. In total, nearly half of the country’s population – 7.1 million people – are suffering food shortages.
Such pervasive food shortages are particularly critical for children under five. Already, some regions are reporting very high rates of malnutrition, rates that will inevitably climb unless decisive action is taken.
“The living conditions of households continue to deteriorate,” said Mamane Issa, Executive Secretary of the Niger Red Cross. “Most families are unable to even access the cereals that are available because they are too expensive, and incomes have been too low because of the bad harvest.”
Since March, Niger Red Cross volunteers have already reached families in more than 210 villages across three regions (Tahoua, Diffa and Zinder). In total, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), Red Cross volunteers have distributed food to more than 12,000 people and plan to reach more than 100,000 people by end of June/mid-July.
“We look forward to improving the accessibility of food for vulnerable households by focusing on cash programming in the first three targeted regions (Diffa, Zinder, Tahoua) and extending it to Dosso and Niamey Suburb” said Momodou Lamin Fye, the IFRC’s Regional Representative for the Sahel. The cash programming activities include providing vouchers for food and cash to stimulate the local market, which now has a supply of food but is lacking the customers with money to buy it.
The management of acute malnutrition and other urgent food needs will also be strengthened and expanded with the support of partner National Red Cross Societies on the ground.
“The situation for children under five is worsening, so another focus of our work is to provide community based screening and referral of acute malnutrition cases. We’ll also provide support for better infant and young child feeding practices through nutrition education,” added Lamin Fye.
However, the operation aims to go beyond these activities. It aims to help communities find more sustainable solutions to this seemingly intractable problem. These include, for example, the promotion for sustainable agriculture through appropriate technologies, the production of seed, the use of mechanisms for small-scale irrigation, the improvement of community, branch and national capacities to prepare for, reduce the risk of and respond to future food crisis and other emergencies.
In late February, the IFRC released 229,000 Swiss francs (USD 212.828 / euro 156.142) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to help Niger Red Cross begin the operation.