Hunger in Niger

Ten million people in Niger face food insecurity right now. It’s a complicated situation. There is no one defined cause for the food insecurity, just a range of destructive factors that are adding up into something ugly. It’s being defined as a chronic food crisis at this point, and no one has a clear sense of how to resolve it.

The World Food Programme has stepped up emergency food aid to Niger. WFP is targeting small children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers for food distribution. They’re asking for $182 million to support the operation, which will stave off the worst impact of hunger in the short term. Food aid, however, can’t resolve long-term chronic insecurity. The Wanderlust blog has an excellent introductory post on the situation in Niger, outlining the causes of that insecurity. It covers the whole range of basics, from what to call the people of Niger – Nigeriens – to defining the difference between famine and chronic food insecurity. One especially shocking data point:

“nearly 170 out of every 1,000 children born in Niger die before they reach the age of five. That’s almost 17%, or more than 1 in 6. Given that the average woman gives birth to 7 children, that means that on average, every woman in Niger will lose at least one child.”

Reuters has a piece up that focuses on expert recommendations on how to improve food security in Niger for the future. According to Boureima Alpha Gado, an expert in droughts and food shortages in the Sahel at Niamey’s Abdou Moumouni University,

“poverty among people whose incomes don’t permit them to afford their food needs in the case of sudden shocks – including droughts, locust attacks, floods – is the other most important cause of the food crises in the country.”

He recommends better agricultural policy, to increase farmers’ output as a solution to the hunger problem. Other experts call for promotion of family planning, better irrigation, and a campaign against polygamy. One thing is for sure – children are dying while the world tries to figure out the solution.