The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced Tuesday that it plans to increase aid to Niger and Mali, “where several million people are suffering from serious food shortages triggered by drought,” SAPA/News24 reports. “The ICRC’s additional 23 million Swiss franc ($22m) programme nearly triples the Geneva-based agency’s existing 13 million franc relief aid earmarked for the two poverty-stricken countries this year,” according to the news service.
The aid will target 100,000 people in northern Mali and northwestern Niger “where food shortages are aggravated by sporadic communal violence, [ICRC] spokesperson Marcal Izard said” (4/6).
“The ICRC will distribute food rations over the next eight months, monthly food rations for about 85,000 people,” Izard said, VOA News reports. “Plus it will distribute seeds and tools and will also help with training for around 40,000 farmers,” he added. “Government statistics indicate more than 250,000 people in northern Mali are short of food. And, in Niger, the government estimates more than half of the entire country’s population, or eight million people, is suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity,” the news service writes (Schlein, 4/6).
Nicolai Panke, head of ICRC operations in Mali and Niger, said that rainfall last year was “irregular and approximately 70 percent below the annual average.” He said, “Because of the weather conditions and the difficulty of moving about amid the violence, the harvest was poor and people have been running out of food while cattle don’t have enough pasture.”
ICRC plans to provide food and farming supplies to address the situation. It will also buy “cattle at pre-crisis prices from 45,000 nomadic herders to cut down herds and distribute meat locally,” SAPA/News24 writes (4/6).
Meanwhile, Niger’s military government said that children have not been attending schools in the country’s southern Zinger region because families have had to go closer to the capital and search for food, VOA News reports in another story.
“Zinder is one of the areas hardest hit by poor rains in a country where more than half the families are food insecure,” writes the news service. “We have children in a bad situation living in bad conditions and lacking everything, meaning health care and food and attention and now education,” according to Anne Boher, who works for UNICEF in Niger. “Food insecurity at the moment is affecting one person out of two here in Niger. Twenty percent of the population are children under five, so you can imagine the impact on children.”
At least 200,000 children in Niger have severe acute malnutrition, which requires hospital treatment, according to UNICEF. “The government says more than 45,000 cases were recorded by the middle of last month. That is double last year’s figure.” Boher said, “The impact on children will be terrifying if we can not provide to these people the adequate food, but also treatment and health care” (Stearns, 4/6).