In Niger UN food agency starts second round of food distribution

“We are at full speed, and should have the second round finished by early October, on time, ” WFP Niger Country Director, Gian Carlo Cirri said in Niamey, the capital, noting that only a handful of villages have not yet received food.In what they described as a “twin-track” approach, the agency has distributed more than 47,000 tons of cereals and pulse to almost one fifth of the country’s population of 11 million, while at the same time has distributed a “mineral-rich, corn-soya blend” (CSB) food to the hundreds of thousands of “moderately malnourished” children and their mothers and siblings.In a separate report, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that it was extending care to under-five children in Zinder, one of the regions in Niger with the highest malnutrition rates, where in conjunction with WFP and Médecins San Frontières, they will identify an estimated 45,000 children who suffer from severe or moderate malnutrition.The large-scale distribution of food is intended to supplement the millet harvest, whose price on the local market is high compared to the five-year average, the agency said. Even though early harvesting of millet, beans and groundnuts has started in some localities, the food situation remains critical in the country.”We have to maintain a fine balance between continuing to help those in need and not undermining in any way the livelihoods of poor farmers who sell part of their crop to raise money for other needs,” said Mr. Cirri, referring to the sometimes unintended consequence of free food distribution programmes driving down the local price of grain.But the WFP said it is closely monitoring market prices and keeps assessment teams in the field who help form a “post-harvest strategy” allowing them to continue providing food to the poorest families, including those who experience crop failure, or are heavily in debt.Tens of thousands of people from Niger are also nomadic, and do not stand to benefit from the harvest and have seen many of their cattle die during the drought that has gripped the country for over a year.Even so, the agency said that a good harvest will only supply a short-term bump from the long term structural food scarcity that the people of Niger face every year. To that end, WFP is helping to fix the long-term structural issues by working with farmers to help them develop irrigation projects and learn new agricultural techniques. read more

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