Two top United Nations officials visiting Niger, one of the countries hit hardest by the current food crisis across Africa's Sahel region, have called on governments and donors to respond to the crisis in ways that will build resilience among local communities for the future.
Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, yesterday wrapped up a two-day joint visit to Niger by travelling to the Tillabéry region in the country's southwest for a first-hand look at the impact of the crisis.
Miss Clark and Ms. Amos visited an agricultural project supported by the UN in the village of Molia that allows villagers to grow vegetables in a sustainable way and at the same time improve their nutrition and boost their incomes.
“This project shows how a tiny initial investment can make a major difference,” Ms. Amos said. “Just a few kilometres from here, there is a village which has not had this investment, where people are leaving their homes and have taken their children out of school so that they can look for food.”
Miss Clark noted that the wider crisis in the Sahel, where poor harvests caused by recurring drought has created severe food shortages, has left an estimated 10 million people across eight countries in urgent need of assistance.
“It has been wonderful to come to Niger and see the Government owning the problem, taking leadership and developing clear strategies,” she said. “We are all here to support that and to mobilize the funding to make it possible to implement the strategies.”
During the visit to Niger, Miss Clark and Ms. Amos also met President Mahamadou Issoufou, Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and government ministers working on food security. They also held talks with the UN Country Team, donor representatives and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) specializing in humanitarian and development issues.
Earlier this week, senior officials from UN humanitarian agencies, donor countries and affected governments agreed on an action plan to deal with the crisis in the Sahel.