The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has successfully completed a cash distribution programme in one of Niger’s poorest communities.
“We gave cash to women in 5,700 households so they could buy essentials such as food, household equipment, farming tools or livestock depending on what they think they need to become more self sufficient and resilient. This project is part of a multi-faceted approach to the critical and chronic problem of hunger in Niger,” said Richard Hunlede, head of the Africa department of the International Federation secretariat in Geneva.
Drought and locusts wiped out much of Niger’s last harvest, leaving more than two million people at risk of hunger in this, a country considered by the UN to be world’s poorest. The hunger continues today.
“Hunger is not just about failed harvests. Its roots go deeper. Hunger is driven by grinding poverty that leaves people with few assets, little education, unsafe drinking water and scarce access to health facilities and vaccinations. The International Federation aims to combat hunger on many levels,” He adds.
In addition to delivering food aid, International Federation water and sanitation engineers have brought safe water to schools. Doctors and nurses have treated people for severe diseases like malaria and diarrhoea. Next month the International Federation will distribute more than two million mosquito nets – enough to protect every child under five from malaria.
Last week, International Federation volunteers distributed US $ 240 (Euros 183) to each of 5,700 families in 90 of the hardest-hit communities in Tanout province in central Niger. The amount is based on a family of seven’s needs for 40 days, plus a little extra to repay debts or restore family finances. It should benefit 34,000 people.
“Many of these people have sold tools, household goods and even their clothes to buy food. Now they have almost nothing left and risk going hungry in the future. We hope that we can give families some basic choices and perhaps some hope for the future with this cash,” said Mr Hunlede.
As the harvest brings relief from hunger for many families, the International Federation continues to give life-saving rations in areas which where hardest hit. As of 5 November, more than 47,000 children under five had received supplementary food at 53 International Federation feeding centres. This is nearly double the original target of 24,500 and it reflects the continuing problem of malnutrition in Niger.
In Maradi, in southern Niger, which has been hard-hit by hunger, new admissions to the supplementary feeding programme have dropped for the first time since the beginning of the operation. This leads the International Federation to hope that hunger has peaked. But nearly 10,000 children are still being fed in nine feeding centres in Maradi that are run by the Spanish Red Cross with support from the International Federation.
Like many agencies, the Red Cross would like to do more in Niger. The International Federation has only received 60 per cent of the Swiss francs CHF 18. 24 million (US $ 14 million or euro 11.6 million) that it needs to carry out a six-month emergency relief programme.