Niger facing food shortages after drought

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that 2.5 million people living in the African country of Niger are facing food shortages. Of those, about 800,000 are children.

Supplies of the staple foods - such as millet - have been low, forcing prices up. Drought and plagues of locust devastated crops across the Sahel region of Africa, and in Niger the effects have been compounded by years of economic decline.

More than a third of the countries districts face "critical" or "extremely critical" situations. While rainfall in the last few weeks has improved, seeds are in short supply after the earlier droughts.

The FAO launched an appeal to the world community for $4m of aid to combat the situation. So far, the only contributor has been Sweden, who donated $650,000 of seeds and animal fodder, which is currently being distributed to make the most of the current rains.

It is said by Oxfam that the neighbouring countries of Mali and Mauritania are also affected putting the total number of people at risk close to 5 million.