A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam seeks $20m in emergency relief to help 450,000 of the most vulnerable people
The current food crisis in Niger is likely to escalate into a full-scale humanitarian emergency if urgent action is not taken, international agency Oxfam warned today. Already, 1.9 million people are at severe risk, and by April, this number could rise to 3.5 million people if help doesn’t come now, according to the National Early Warning System.
Overall, over 6 million people need immediate assistance to prevent more families in Niger from going hungry. In some parts of the country, 100 percent of families are already rationing and reducing the number of meals eaten each day.
“Millions of people are being pushed to the brink. All signs point to an impending catastrophe if more is not done immediately. The world cannot allow this to happen. To prevent the worst, adequate funding is needed now,” said Samuel Braimah, Oxfam Country Director for Niger.
A lethal mix of drought, erratic rains, high food prices, entrenched poverty and regional conflict is behind the crisis. Although food is available on the market, it is not readily accessible or affordable for the most vulnerable Nigeriens.
“The worsening of the crisis is preventable and thousands of lives will be saved if we act now. It’s that simple,” Braimah said.
The UN has initially estimated that $229m was needed to address the needs and that figure is due to increase significantly in the coming days. While some rich countries have started to donate—and the European Union in particular are donating generously and early—over half of the amount is still needed.
In Niger, Oxfam needs to raise an additional $16m in emergency funds to meet the needs of around 450,000 people it plans to help with vital aid such as food, water, sanitation, livelihood support, and cash relief. To date, the agency has only raised $3.8m, a gap that is severely hampering its ability to help people.
To complement its long term programs, Oxfam has already launched an emergency response to support some of the most vulnerable households with cash relief and cash for work activities to improve their resilience following a failed 2011 harvest.
On the area bordering Mali, the agency has also launched an immediate response to the influx of refugees in the Tillabery region, working alongside government authorities and other humanitarian actors. Interventions providing food, water, mosquito nets, blankets and hygiene kits have been done in Ayorou.
Plans are also being developed to support refugee and host population in other places, such as Mangaize and Abala in the same region, and Tillia in the Tahoua region, through cash transfers, promotion of clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education. The first borehole will be drilled next week in Mangaize.
Oxfam has worked in Niger since 1992 and is currently supporting programs in food security and livelihoods, education, humanitarian assistance, governance and gender. The ongoing humanitarian work is linked to longer term development that addresses the root causes of poverty.
Report: Escaping the Hunger Cycle: Pathways to resilience in the Sahel (November 2011)
Notes to editors
In Niger, staple food prices are higher by 34 percent compare with last year and above the last five years average. In the areas worst hit by food crisis, one third of the people are still indebted following the 2005 and 2010 crises. People have also been hit by an increase in the frequency and severity of food crises in the Sahel region in the last decade which exhausted their coping capacity.
One in five families surveyed said children are dropping out of school because families left in search of work, the school canteens closed, or the children must work. Pastoralists are concentrating on limited grazing areas and are forced to sell their animals to buy food.
For more information, please contact:
Gaëlle Bausson (in Agadez)
Oxfam Media Lead, Niger
Tel: +227 7240 7424 or +227 9802 9930
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Boubacar Soumare (in Niamey)
Media Officer; Oxfam
Tel: +227 9464 2761 or +227 9855 7946
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com