UN agency needs $10 million to feed locust and drought-hit people in Mali and Niger

UN agency needs $10 million to feed locust and drought-hit people in Mali and Niger

Desert locusts are particularly voracious
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for $10 million to ensure the double ravages of drought and locusts do not combine to destroy the livelihoods of over 800,000 vulnerable people living in Mali and Niger, two of the four lowest-ranked countries in a UN Human Development Index.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for $10 million to ensure the double ravages of drought and locusts do not combine to destroy the livelihoods of over 800,000 vulnerable people living in Mali and Niger, two of the four lowest-ranked countries in a UN Human Development Index.

“We are already seeing worrying signs of malnutrition amongst young children and vulnerable adults. Cattle are dying, food prices are soaring, livestock are being driven south in search of better pasture – these calamities would even bring Job to his knees,” WFP Mali Country Director Pablo Recalde said.

In 2004 West Africa suffered its worst locust infestation in 15 years. Although the destruction in the agricultural belt of Mali and Niger was far from total, harvests and pastures were severely affected in several areas, a situation which was compounded by an early end to the rainy season in the region.

In both countries, well over 60 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and agriculture is the engine of a weak economy. Even in a good year the region is plagued by chronic food insecurity between harvests, but drought and the locust invasion have almost completely destroyed traditional coping mechanisms in some areas.

Although the most vulnerable will receive food from free distributions, the majority of WFP’s aid will be through food-for-work programmes aimed at helping farmers rehabilitate their land and improve its productivity in the seasons to come, such as technical training, the repair of dams and wells, the rehabilitation and protection of soils and the creation of small fruit and vegetable gardens.

Needs are greatest in Mali where $7.5 million is required to feed nearly 450,000 people living mainly in the regions of Mopti, Timbuktu, Kayes, Kidal and Gao.