Thursday, July 14, 2005

Niger


BBC WS radio had a report last night about Niger. Cattle were dying in great numbers and, where that happens, people usually follow. This is happening while the rest of the world is mostly indifferent. One comment was that it was not dramatic enough - just another African food crisis, no conflict involved, the government is democratic. Strange then that when I looked on the BBC's website, there seems to be a lot of criticism of the government. They reported on 3 June:
a government spokesman Mohamed Ben Omar said that its food stocks could not be handed out for free. The UN says it has not had a single pledge for money for its Niger appeal. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has called for $16.2m to buy food for those suffering from recurring drought and a locust infestation. "What civil society is asking is poorly conceived and irrational. The state of Niger cannot engage in such a foolish adventure," Mr Omar told the AFP news agency. He said Niger's emergency food stocks had been built up carefully and would need to be replaced if they were given out.
Then, on 7 July
Niger's government cannot afford to distribute free food to those hit by a food crisis, officials say, as hundreds of people flee to Nigeria. Food crisis committee manager Seydou Bakary warned of a "nationwide catastrophe" if this year's harvests are even slightly deficient. [...] Donors have largely ignored a UN appeal to help the 3.5m people going hungry.
Idy Barou, from Tahoua on 13 July
"The situation is terrible," said Abdoulye Adamou, who has come to the city of Tahoua. "We have no food and our cattle are dying in front of our eyes because of a shortage of water and food." He said that the government food supplied at reduced cost was not only insufficient, but too expensive for a poor farmer living on less than $1 per day. Poor rains and locust invasions last year devastated the farms leaving behind only desolate, charcoal grey hot sand.
On Medecins Sans Frontieres' site,  what they had in English did not make a lot of sense, so I looked at what they had in French: URGENCE NIGER - Les sacrifiés du développement - Mis en ligne le 28 juin 2005
Presque sans caricaturer, on répond à une situation d'urgence en construisant des digues pour développer l'agriculture irriguée ! [...] l'assistance d'urgence, c'est-à-dire les distributions gratuites, sont considérées comme une solution d'ultime recours que l'on répugne à utiliser.
[...]
faisant fi de la situation d'urgence alimentaire, le sort des populations en danger était tranquillement subordonné à des impératifs de respect du jeu économique. Comble de l'ironie, ce marché est déjà complètement déstabilisé par les grands spéculateurs dont beaucoup sont étroitement liés au pouvoir en place. Pour résumer, la sécurité alimentaire, telle qu'elle est appliquée au Niger, privilégie le long terme sur le court terme, le développement sur l'assistance, le marché sur le service public.
Finally, the UN's World Food Programme: 12 July 2005 -  WFP PLANS TO ALMOST TRIPLE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ASSISTED IN NIGER AS FOOD CRISIS DEEPENS
Following widespread coverage of Niger in the international media, the bulk of WFP’s US$4.2 million appeal (US$ 3.9 million) for 465,000 people was received in the last six weeks. However, WFP now requires an additional US$12 million to cover the rapidly rising costs of the operation which now aims to feed nearly 1.2 million people.
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