As Niger faces severe food shortages, UN and partners appeal for aid

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10 February - With 7.8 million people in Niger - or three fifths of the population - facing moderate to severe food insecurity, the United Nations and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners today appealed for international aid to help the Government of the impoverished West African country overcome imminent shortages.

"It is imperative to support the Government in its efforts to mobilize the resources to satisfy the food needs of the most vulnerable," resident UN Humanitarian Coordinator Khardiata Lo N'Diaye said.

She noted that a national food security assessment completed in December showed that 2.7 million people suffered faced severe food insecurity, and another 5.1 million faced moderate food insecurity, with more than half the total population having less than two months'' food stocks until the next harvest, not expected until October.

"The United Nations and their partners in close cooperation with the national authorities to respond rapidly to identified priorities," the Coordinator said.

An irregular, spottily distributed and prematurely shortened rainy season in 2009 led to insufficient cereal and fodder production for people and livestock, and the Government is currently evaluating how much more funding is needed.

"There is good reason to fear that this situation seriously threatens food security in the short term and undermines efforts made so far," Ms. Lo N'Diaye said. "We must act at once, and together."

In 2005, when Niger faced severe food shortages because of drought, the UN launched a variety of initiatives, including funding appeals, to stave off potential famine that threatened nearly 3 million people and had already killed thousands of children.