Niger: UN voices concern over high food prices after poor harvest

Mothers with hungry children lining up at distribution site in Taoa, Niger,  for food handouts
Mothers with hungry children lining up at distribution site in Taoa, Niger, for food handouts

Niger: UN voices concern over high food prices after poor harvest

High food prices in Niger have placed people already hit by shortages under severe pressure as they struggle to feed their families at a time of reduced harvests in the country, which lies in the drought-prone Sahel region of West Africa, a United Nations official said today.

“I am deeply worried about the food situation deteriorating in the coming months and we cannot sit back and wait for the worst to come,” Denise Brown, director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Niger, said in a press release.

The prices of cereals should have fallen during the current post-harvest period in Niger, but have instead risen sharply as a result of the poor yields. The average price of millet has risen by 37 per cent compared to the similar period last year, according to WFP.

The Government of Niger has classified up to 750,000 people as severely food insecure in four regions. That number is expected to increase to as high as a million people early next year, as the “lean” season – when household food stocks are low – approaches in March-April.

WFP aims to provide food assistance to some 3.3 million people in Niger over the coming year at an estimated cost of $163 million.

In Geneva, WFP spokesperson Gaëlle Sévenier told reporters that the increasing frequency of droughts in the Sahel means that communities are lurching from crisis to crisis with little time to recover from previous shocks.

The situation in Niger, Mauritania, Mali and the Sahelian part of Chad is of particular concern. Those countries have requested international assistance, Ms. Sévenier said. Conditions in Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria are also a cause for concern.

Crop assessment results in Niger have confirmed a cereals deficit of more than 500,000 tons, she said, adding that yields are down mainly as a result of drought and pest infestation.