- A month after large funds finally were freed to help the millions starving in Niger, it becomes clear that there are insufficient capacities to ship food aid to those most in need. An average of 40 children are now dying each day in the Zinder region due to "misdirected" food aid.
It is the French humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that today reveals that the nutritional situation in the Zinder region is actually worsening. MSF warns that there is "little to indicate that the alarming conditions will improve in the near future."
According to a new nutritional survey in this south-eastern region of Niger had revealed that "tens of thousands of children in Niger still require immediate nutritional assistance." Around Zinder, one in five children is now suffering from malnutrition. The study revealed an even more critical situation for children less than 30 months old, with nearly one in three malnourished and 5.6 percent severely malnourished.
As a result, mortality rates are now strongly increasing, reaching the double rate compared to January, when a food emergency was declared. During August, more than 5 persons out a group of 10,000 died each and every day in the Zinder region. Around 40 children are dying every day in the region due to the famine.
The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) agrees that the famine in Niger still is of an enormous scale. WFP holds that around 3 out of Niger's 12 million inhabitants are suffering from food insecurity or famine. The UN agency is currently trying to distribute food aid to around 1.8 million Nigeriens.
A little more than one month ago, donors finally responded to the cries from the Nigerien government and humanitarian organisations. Relatively large sums were directed towards WFP, MSF and other humanitarian agencies to speed up food and medical aid deliveries to Niger. Since the disaster in New Orleans (USA), donations have however shrunk.
The new information released by MSF today however indicates that there have been major problems distributing this aid to the famine victims. MSF cites both bureaucratic and logistic problems in delivering food aid to Niger's many remote villages.
An MSF spokesman today concluded that, additionally, the aid had been "misdirected" to areas that were not most in need. The group indirectly criticises UN aid agencies, Nigerien authorities and donors for a poorly organised aid relief.
Also WFP admits problems in food distribution, although not wanting to take any responsibility. "There are some delays at the Burkina Faso-Niger border, for trucks leaving Burkina and entering Niger," WFP says in its latest emergency report. The UN agency maintains that its direction of food aid generally has been correct.
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