The West African nation of Niger is facing an increasingly alarming food crisis as the UN announced it would double the number of people it was feeding today despite continuing budget shortfalls in its World Food Program (WFP). Failing rains have caused crop yields in Niger to decline, while food prices are rising and livestock prices falling. Officials say these trends have created a perfect-storm for a crisis in Niger, which according to Amadou Sayo from CARE International, is occurring “out of the public eye.”
“Niger has been hit extremely hard by the drought and the world has to act to prevent massive human suffering and the loss of a generation,” said Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of WFP, in a press release.
The WFP is working to reach 2.3 million people in the Sahel region of Niger, which is particularly hard-hit. The agency warns that 1.5 million children are at risk of malnutrition.
CARE International compares the current situation in Niger to the global food crisis in 2005, which caught many off guard.
“In 2005, all the attention and donor funds were focused on the tsunami in Asia. Today, it’s Haiti,” said Sayo, CARE’s Regional Emergency Coordinator, who led CARE’s emergency response in Niger in 2005. “Many governments have generously dedicated enormous resources to help those affected by the Haiti earthquake, but that leaves little left for disasters like the food crisis in Niger.”
A survey in January found that half of Niger’s 13.5 million people suffer from food insecurities. Globally, a billion people currently suffer from hunger.
Currently the WFP is facing a 133 million US dollar shortfall in its budget for Niger and has asked for 190 million US dollars to help fund continuing food programs there.
World failing on every environmental issue: an op-ed for Earth Day
(04/22/2010) The biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the deforestation crisis: we are living in an age when environmental issues have moved from regional problems to global ones. A generation or two before ours and one might speak of saving the beauty of Northern California; conserving a single species—say the white rhino—from extinction; or preserving an ecological region like the Amazon. That was a different age. Today we speak of preserving world biodiversity, of saving the ‘lungs of the planet’, of mitigating global climate change. No longer are humans over-reaching in just one region, but we are overreaching the whole planet, stretching ecological systems to a breaking point. While we are aware of the issues that threaten the well-being of life on this planet, including our own, how are we progressing on solutions?
How free trade has devastated Africa’s farmers and poor
(02/15/2010) A push in the mid-1980s for Africa to embrace free trade to aid it economies backfired in many of the continent’s poorest countries, argues a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Africa was pushed to rollback government involvement in development and instead to rely on the private sector: government services shrunk, cash crops were pushed over staples, while tariffs and subsides were abolished. The insistence on free trade was meant to spur economic growth, but instead undercut traditional agricultural systems that had worked for centuries, eventually leading to a food crisis, which left millions hungry, led to multiple food riots, and destabilized governments.
Kenya’s pain: famine, drought, government ambivalence cripples once stable nation
(09/17/2009) Kenya was once considered one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s success stories: the country possessed a relatively stable government, a good economy, a thriving tourist industry due to a beautiful landscape and abundant wildlife. But violent protests following a disputed election in 2007 hurt the country’s reputation, and then—even worse—drought and famine struck the country this year. The government response has been lackluster, the international community has been distracted by the economic crisis, and suddenly Kenya seems no longer to be the light of East Africa, but a warning to the world about the perils of ignoring climate change, government corruption, and the global food and water shortages.