Niger Suffers Worst Food Crisis in 20 Years

 photo: Three year old Jamila Amadou

Children across Niger and North Mali are starving as the world ignores appeals for help.

Around 150,000 children will die soon without aid, according to Jan Egeland, head of UN Emergency Relief.

A deadly combination of poor rains and locust invasions have devastated last year's crops leaving around 3.5 million people in Niger with little or no food.

Millions Affected

Experts say this is the worst food crisis for 20 years in Niger , which ranks as the second poorest country in the world.

"If the famine continues my family and I will die," said 80-year-old Abdou Adamou, a farmer from Tondikiwindi , Niger . "We have nothing to survive on. There is no food, no property and no livestock."

A further 1.5 million people in the north of neighbouring Mali are also affected.

Rocketing Food Prices

Livestock are dying of starvation and drought in great numbers. It takes years for nomadic herdsmen to build up their herds, which have now been decimated.

Failed harvests have also sent farmers spiralling into poverty and hunger. Seeds for the next harvest have been eaten, leaving nothing to plant for October.

Food prices in the markets have more than doubled. In a country where two thirds of the population lives on less than $1 a day, most people cannot afford to buy food.

Desperate Search for Food

Dozens of villages have been abandoned as their hungry residents wander the desert in search of food. Some people head for the towns and cities, or even neighbouring countries.

Villagers gather leaves, berries and roots of wild plants to eat. Even these are becoming scarce in some areas, as so many people are relying on them for food.

“I have no means to face this famine,” explains Zali Adamou, a 90-year-old widow from the Tillaberi region in Niger . “I have no food, livestock, nothing. I only have God!”

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