French food relief arrives in hunger-ravaged Niger following UN appeals

21 July 2005
Severely malnourished Nigerian children

Following repeated appeals to the international community to help stave off a deepening hunger crisis in Niger, where 2.5 million people are in need of food aid, a much-needed French airlift arrived today in one of the hardest-hit areas of the impoverished West African country, the United Nations World Food Programme reported.

Following repeated appeals to the international community to help stave off a deepening hunger crisis in Niger, where 2.5 million people are in need of food aid, a much-needed French airlift arrived today in one of the hardest-hit areas of the impoverished West African country, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported.

“People are truly desperate. We need to provide as much urgent nourishment as we can to stop the appalling scenes of children slowly dying before their parents' eyes,” WFP country director Gian Carlo Cirri said, noting that the annual “hunger season” has been exacerbated exponentially by poor rains and the worst locust invasion in 15 years.

The airlift from the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Réunir to Maradi consisted of 16 tons of oil, sugar and plumpy'nut (a highly nutritious paste for young children). A further airlift will take place over the weekend with 40 tons of millet and 28 tons of oil.

These supplies will help to replenish dwindling food stocks in Niger, where WFP is providing emergency food aid to 1.2 million of the neediest people. This month, the agency nearly tripled the number of beneficiaries due to rising malnutrition rates, especially among children.

“It is extremely important to act quickly in this kind of situation,” said Bernard Kouchner, former French Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, who founded and heads Réunir. The NGO gathered foodstuffs from French companies such as Carrefour, l'Oreal and Total and organized the airlifts to Niger.

With some 2.5 million people living on less than one meal a day, the UN has raised its emergency appeal from $16 million to $30 million, but so far, only $10 million has been pledged by donors.

Two months ago, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland called Niger “the number one forgotten and neglected emergency in the world.”

 

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