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Responding to Niger’s latest hunger crisis

Niger, July 23, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps

Five years ago, Mercy Corps responded to a catastrophic food crisis in Niger that put more than 3.5 million people at risk of malnutrition and starvation. Today, Niger is facing potentially worse food shortages — and Mercy Corps is again readying a lifesaving response.

This year, as many as 7.8 million people — more than half of Niger’s total population — face the grim prospect of months without sufficient food. Sporadic rains during the last growing season have had a devastating effect on harvests and food supplies, leaving households with little to save for the long “hungry season” between harvests. There are already widespread reports of families — particularly women and children — skipping meals and having to forage for semi-edible grasses, leaves and other wild food.

They need help to survive until the fall harvest, and the Government of Niger has requested urgent assistance from the international community.

Mercy Corps — which has worked in some of Niger’s poorest villages since 2005 – has plans to deliver food and other critical assistance to more than 211,000 people threatened by the hunger crisis. Through government grants, private support and partnerships with local organizations, we will supply nutritious food to vulnerable households while helping farmers address issues of debt from previous poor harvests. Through a microfinance partner, we will extend credit to farming families in order to help them get back on their feet and better able to support themselves.

Every cycle of hunger in Niger drives already-struggling families deeper into poverty. This year, we’re determined to not only help them feed themselves, but also strengthen their ability to emerge from crisis.

Over the last five years, our work in Niger has helped save and change lives: we’ve ensured therapeutic food for more than 60,000 malnourished children and mothers. Our team has also helped improve maternal and child health by working with local authorities to build community health networks that have reached at least 370,000 people in 547 villages.

This year, hunger threatens Nigerien families once again. We are prepared to respond, and your support will help us save lives in one of the world’s poorest places.