- The food crisis in Niger goes on, especially affecting Nigerien children. UN agencies have estimated that there are around 500,000 malnourished youngsters urgently needing humanitarian aid in the Sahelian country, but there is a lack of donations to fund aid operations. The government of Niger contributed much to this lack of support by denying there was a food crisis.
The UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) today said it still needed more than US$ 3 million to address the immediate and mid-term needs of children and women affected by the food crisis in Niger, where it expects to treat 500,000 malnourished youngsters this year.
"Niger faces an acute and chronic nutrition crisis," UNICEF said in a statement today, citing a recent survey showing that 15.3 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition and 50 percent from chronic malnutrition, rates comparable to those observed in conflict zones and the worst emergencies in the world.
An assessment made jointly by the government of Niger, the US and UNICEF last November found that more than 1.8 million people, including 380,000 children under five, would face food insecurity this year.
Nevertheless, the Nigerien government has tried to stop local and international media from reporting on the food shortages and malnutrition rates developing in the poor Sahelian nation this year. Only in April, Nigerien authorities withdrew accreditation from a 'BBC' television crew after it reported on hunger in the Maradi region and forbade officials to talk to the media about the food situation.
The repression of media reports from the famine in Niger is believed to have had a negative effect on potential donors, thus making the ongoing humanitarian work in the country more difficult. Also last year, authorities in Niamey sought to repress local coverage of a developing nation-wide famine out of fear that the news would tarnish the country's image. The delay in relief aid probably cost the lives of thousands of children.
While media censorship in Niger is somewhat lighter this year, the food crisis is almost as profound as last year. So far in 2006 more than 107,000 malnourished children have been admitted to UNICEF-supported therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes, the agency said today.
UNICEF regular and emergency nutrition programmes have been scaled up to coordinate and support the Nigerien government and a network of 22 national and international non-governmental organisations with the aim of treating 500,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition during 2006, the UN agency says today.
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