Shortfall in funding for emergency aid risks lives in Niger

Posted by Ian Bray Senior Humanitarian Press Officer

26th Mar 2012

Oxfam seeks £12.5m to fund emergency relief for 450,000 of the most vulnerable people

The current food crisis in Niger is likely to escalate into a full-scale humanitarian emergency if urgent action is not taken, international agency Oxfam again warned today.

An estimated 1.9 million people are already at severe risk in Niger and by April this number could rise to 3.5 million people if help doesn't come now, according to the National Early Warning System. Overall, more than 6 million people need immediate assistance to prevent them going hungry; in some parts of the country, 100 percent of families are already rationing and reducing the number of meals eaten each day.

The situation in Niger mirrors conditions across West and Central Africa, with Oxfam warning earlier this month that an estimated 13 million people in the Sahel region are at severe risk from a food crisis. The agency has launched a £23m emergency appeal to help reach more than 1 million vulnerable people across the affected countries, including Niger, with vital aid.

"Millions of people are being pushed to the brink," said Samuel Braimah, Oxfam Country Director for Niger. "All signs point to an impending catastrophe if more is not done immediately. The world cannot allow this to happen. To prevent the worst, adequate funding is needed now."

A lethal mix of drought, erratic rains, high food prices, entrenched poverty and regional conflict is behind the crisis. Although food is available on the market, it is not readily accessible or affordable for the most vulnerable Nigeriens.

"The worsening of the crisis is preventable and thousands of lives will be saved if we act now. It's that simple," Braimah said.

The UN initially estimated that $229m was needed to address the needs of those going hungry in Niger, but that figure is expected to be revised upwards significantly in the coming days. Some countries and organisations have started to donate - with the European Union prominent among them - but less than half of the UN's initial estimate has been raised.

In Niger, Oxfam needs to raise an additional £10m in emergency funds to meet the needs of around 450,000 people it plans to help with vital aid such as food, water, sanitation, livelihood support, and cash relief. To date, the agency has raised nearly £2.5m, with the shortfall severely limiting its ability to help people affected by the food crisis.

To complement its long term programmes, Oxfam has already launched an emergency response to support some of the most vulnerable households in Niger with cash relief and cash for work activities to improve their resilience following a failed 2011 harvest.

On the area bordering Mali, the agency has also launched an immediate response to the influx of refugees in the Tillabery region, working alongside government authorities and other humanitarian actors. Food, water, mosquito nets, blankets and hygiene kits have also been supplied to some beneficiaries in Ayorou.

Plans are also being developed to support refugees and the host population in other areas, such as Mangaize and Abala in the same region, and Tillia in the Tahoua region, through cash transfers, promotion of clean water, sanitation and hygiene and education. The first borehole will be drilled next week in Mangaize.

Oxfam has worked in Niger since 1992 and is currently supporting programmes in food security and livelihoods, education, humanitarian assistance, governance and gender.  The ongoing humanitarian work is linked to longer term development that addresses the root causes of poverty.

 

For more information, please contact:

Gaëlle Bausson (in Agadez), Oxfam Media Lead, Niger. Tel: +227 7240 7424 or +227 9802 9930. Email:gbausson.oxfam@gmail.com orgaelle.bausson@oxfamnovib.ne

Boubacar Soumare (in Niamey), Oxfam Media Officer. Tel: +227 9464 2761/+227 9855 7946. Email:boubacar.soumare@oxfamnovib.nl orboubacar.soumare.oxfamnovib@gmail.com

 

Notes to editor

1. In Niger, staple food prices are higher by 34 percent compare with last year and above the last five years average. In the areas worst hit by food crisis, one third of the people are still indebted following the 2005 and 2010 crises. People have also been hit by an increase in the frequency and severity of food crises in the Sahel region in the last decade which exhausted their coping capacity.

 

2. One in five families surveyed said children are dropping out of school because families left in search of work, the school canteens closed, or the children must work. Pastoralists are concentrating on limited grazing areas and are forced to sell their animals to buy food.

Blog post written by Ian Bray

Senior Humanitarian Press Officer

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