Niger communities say they will run out of food before next harvest, joint study shows
Seven leading aid agencies call on donors to act now to prevent humanitarian disaster. According to a recent field study conducted in communities in western and eastern Niger, between 70 and 90 per cent of people estimate their food stocks will run out before the next harvest, creating an imminent ‘hunger gap’. A full 100 percent of families surveyed say they have already reduced the amount of food consumed each day because they do not have enough to eat.
The study was conducted by the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) and the Emergency Capacity Building Project (a coalition including CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision), with input from the World Food Programme and the Government of Niger. It is the latest in mounting evidence pointing to a potentially massive humanitarian disaster in the Sahel if the world does not respond quickly with urgently-needed assistance to those already in crisis, and mitigation activities to prevent more families from going hungry.
“In the villages we see more and more mothers not being able to feed their children more than once a day. We can’t wait any longer. We can’t wait until it becomes one meal every second day, and those children are starving, and suffer crippling, life-long effects from malnutrition,” said Johannes Schoors, Country Director of CARE Niger. “Many families haven’t recovered from the 2005 and 2010 crises. They need help now.”
While in a typical year the hungry season, when people usually start cutting back on meals, does not usually start until May or June, the surveyed communities in Diffa and Tillabéri said that this year it has already started, and that the situation is already critical and will get worse. Key findings of the assessment include:
- 100 percent of families indicated that they have already reduced portions and number of meals eaten each day.
- Between 70 and 90 per cent of people estimate their food stocks will run out before the next harvest.
- Farmers and pastoralists said last year’s harvest was twice as bad as 2009, when a catastrophic drought and high food prices led to a country-wide humanitarian disaster.
- One-quarter of communities said children are dropping out of school because families left in search of work, the school canteens closed, or the children must work.
- People are forced to sell their animals to buy food, but this is flooding the market and causing livestock prices to plummet.
- 97% of the communities indicated serious problems as a result of decreased fodder production for their animals.
- Approximately 80 percent do not have enough seed stocked to plant for the next season, putting people at risk of hunger for next year as well.
- Nearly one-third of the population is still in debt from the last widespread crop failure in 2009.