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Millions at risk for starvation in Niger after poor harvests

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Nearing the end of the lean season in Niger and food reserves for many here are running out. One native, who provides for her 23 family members says she has been reduced to selling her goats to make ends meet. "The misery of Niger is famine," she says.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The food crisis extends far beyond Niger and is afflicting an estimated 18 million in Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal and other countries across the Sahel. The latest famine is rooted in a myriad of economic, environmental, social and political factors.

Ecological issues such as desertification and climate change, as well as pest infestations, volatile rains, and long periods of drought have led to years of crop failures.

Four million children are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition on account of the recent crop failures, with at least one million at risk of developing severe acute malnutrition.

Population growth, high fuel costs and the rising price of staple foods coupled with chronic poverty and a lack of basic healthcare, sanitation, and education in Niger has tergeted six million at risk of going hungry in a country with a population of approximately 15.5 million.

Since 80 percent of its land covered by the Sahara Desert, Niger is facing a cereal deficit of more than 500,000 metric tons. In addition, the conflict in Northern Mali has put further strain on food shortages and insecurity in the region. More than 430,000 people have fled Mali and sought refuge in bordering countries, with as many as 50,000 fleeing to Niger.

There is also a lack of protection against erratic rises in food prices. Desperate times have necessitated desperate measures.

The battle against hunger is seemingly being lost. Non-governmental agencies have stepped in but the deficit remains to be bridged. Meanwhile, lines of emaciated mothers and rickety children are getting longer at relief camps.

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