Mercy Corps is providing cash, therapeutic food and nutrition screenings to thousands of people in hunger-stricken Niger. Conditions in Niger have become increasingly desperate in recent months as a severe drought, failed harvests, and rising food prices have led to dramatic food shortfalls. The government of Niger estimates that more than 5.5 million people are at risk of going hungry.
“Food shortages in Niger are rapidly worsening and the number of malnourished children is growing at an alarming pace,” said Thierno Diallo, Mercy Corps’ Niger country director. “People have resorted to foraging for wild seeds and leaves because they simply have nothing to eat. Without significant humanitarian assistance, the situation will continue to deteriorate. It is imperative for Mercy Corps to intervene now.”
With support from US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) department of Food for Peace and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Mercy Corps is providing cash-for-work and cash transfer to help more than 85,000 people in the Filingué and Ouallam communes of western Niger’s hard-hit Tillabéri region. The program will supply a fair daily wage to women who collect water and plants as part of land rehabilitation efforts, allowing them to purchase much-needed food for their families.
Mercy Corps began the cash-for-work program in Niger in late March, and aims to continue through mid-September. This work builds on existing interventions to mitigate the impact of drought and food shortages. Mercy Corps had previously allocated its own emergency funds to provide nutrition screenings for more than 9,500 children under the age of five in Filingué, and referrals of those severely malnourished so they can get therapeutic feeding, treatment and basic sustenance
According to a recent field study conducted by Mercy Corps and partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in western and eastern Niger, between 70 and 100 percent of people estimate their already low food stock will run out well before the next harvest in October. This crisis has been building for months. In December 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 13 percent of children under five in Tillabéri region were malnourished. The WHO classified this level of malnutrition as “serious,” and the situation is poised to deteriorate further without significant intervention.
Mercy Corps started working in Niger in 2005 during one of the country's worst-ever food crises, when the agency launched programs to help address malnutrition among young children. Today, Mercy Corps’ programs in rural and urban communities promote health and nutrition, food security, economic development, good governance and youth employment.
Watch a short video report from Niger at www.mercycorps.org/countries/niger/video/food-crisis-is-just-beginning.