© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1593/Holtz

A girl drinks a mixture of millet, milk and sugar in a village in Maradi Department. Inadequate rainfall, outdated farming methods and demographic pressure are causing food insecurity that threatens half the country’s population.

Children and women in crisis

The great humanitarian crisis that affected the Niger in 2010 deprived its people of the most important essential for life: food. This story of hunger echoed throughout the Sahel region, where climate change, demographic pressure and outdated farming techniques have stripped the people of their ability to feed themselves. In the Niger, food insecurity threatened 7.1 million of people, almost half of the country’s population.1 Children were hit hardest. Acute malnutrition in children rose to 16.7 per cent, with a peak of 26.1 per cent in those under age 2.2 Unprecedented humanitarian action backed the Government of the Niger response and helped avoid a heavy death toll. Over 200,000 tons of food aid3 were distributed to vulnerable families, and over 300,000 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition in therapeutic feeding centres.4 Abundant rains in second-half 2010 raised hope for good harvests, but floods and outbreaks of cholera and malaria added hazardous elements and increased distress. Although the food outlook for 2011 is better than in 2010, chronic and acute undernutrition are expected to remain high. The country faces widespread poverty, limited health infrastructure and inadequate education facilities. In the northern area, the presence of Al-Qaida further complicates humanitarian access.

Meeting urgent needs and building resilience in 2011

As cluster lead agency for nutrition, protection and WASH, UNICEF will continue to work with the Government of the Niger, other UN agencies, and local and international NGOs as well as host communities in addressing the needs of more than 2 million children.

Humanitarian funding at work: Highlights from 2010

In 2010, UNICEF estimated that US$38,735,292 was needed to fund its humanitarian work in the Niger. As of October 2010, a total of US$27,205,183, or 70 per cent, had been received. With this funding, UNICEF ensured treatment of more than 300,000 children, aged 6–59 months and suffering from severe acute malnutrition, through the national network of 822 health centres that were strengthened with training (700) and recruitment of health workers (122). In partnership with the World Food Pro-gramme and 20 national and international NGOs, UNICEF co-funded operational costs of a blanket feeding operation that reached 675,000 children 6–23 months old. To improve food security in vulnerable households and prevent misuse of supplementary food, UNICEF set up an emergency cash transfer programme for 35,000 families. Flood-affected families in the Maradi, Niamey and Zinder Regions were provided with clean water and sanitation facilities and 33,191 emergency family kits. Psychosocial support and awareness-raising helped protect 13,000 flood-affected women and children from abuse, violence and exploitation. Repairs to flood-damaged schools allowed 7,000 students to resume their education.

Funding requirements for 2011

UNICEF is requesting US$37,062,000 to carry out its planned activities in the Niger. This request is in line with Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) requirements. Generous and rapid funding is needed to prevent child deaths due to malnutrition and disease.

More information on 2010 achievements and details of humanitarian action planned for Niger in 2011 can be found at www.unicef.org/hac2011.

1 National Institute of Statistics, ‘Vulnerability and Food Security Survey in Niger’, INS-Niger, Niamey, April 2010.
2 National Institute of Statistics and Ministry of Public Health, ‘National Nutrition Survey’, INS-Niger, Niamey, June 2010.
3 Nutrition crisis unit, Cabinet of the Prime Minister, Projet de plan de soutien aux populations vulnerables 2010–2011 [Plan to support vulnerable populations], Republic of the Niger, Niamey, October 2010, p. 13.
4 United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘ “Scaling-Up” Niger 2010‘, UNICEF Niger, Niamey, November 2010, p. 1.

UNICEF Emergency Needs for 2011 (in US dollars) Total $37,062,000