Image: A child receives treatment at a nutrition centre in Niger. Sylvain Cherkaoui for Action Against Hunger
Conflict worsens hunger crisis in Niger
Malnutrition has reached emergency levels in Niger’s conflict-torn Diffa region - an area which hosts more than 241,000 refugees and returnees from the conflict in neighbouring Nigeria.
Jun 17 2016
Over the past decade, Niger has faced drought, episodes of political instability and several devastating food crises. Currently, 2.1 million people are facing food insecurity. In regions such as Zinder, Diffa, Maradi, and Dosso the malnutrition rate exceeds the UN emergency threshold of 15 percent.
"Before the conflict, Diffa was already classified as a chronically vulnerable area,” said Alvaro Pascual, Action Against Hunger’s regional director for Niger and the wider Sahel region. “Now, even in areas less exposed to the violence, people are facing a very severe food crisis. Refugees and displaced families rely heavily on the support of host communities to help them meet their basic needs for shelter, food, water. But things have reached a breaking point: host communities themselves are struggling and food stocks are quite low.”
Of particular concern is the fact that 400,794 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the most life-threatening form of hunger, with another 709,003 children and 272,000 pregnant and nursing women moderately malnourished and very vulnerable.
New waves of displacement caused by recent attacks and ongoing conflict triggered by the insurgency group Boko Haram in neighbouring Mali and Nigeria have driven a steady flow refugees and returnees into Niger, straining already scarce local resources.
Crisis decimates livelihood opportunities
People rely on farming, raising livestock, and fishing to earn income. But active conflict has made the Lake Chad and the Komadougou River areas inaccessible, depriving people of their livelihoods and preventing them from using land for grazing for their livestock.
Meeting urgent needs and building resilience
"The humanitarian crisis in Diffa is complex. Sudden and unexpected population movements, precipitated by attacks on communities by Boko Haram, make it very difficult to plan for and deliver emergency assistance,” said Pascual. “Our work must integrate short-, medium-, and long-term planning and interventions, combining humanitarian assistance with transitions to recovery and development activities, and addressing the root causes of the vulnerability in the area.”
Action Against Hunger is prioritising initiatives to improve agricultural production and help communities earn an income.
To address the rising demands for clean water and sanitation, we are also distributing hygiene kits, rehabilitating and building wells and latrines, and conducting hygiene promotion and cholera prevention campaigns. Our teams also continue to monitor food security and nutrition status of at-risk communities in the coming weeks, and we will work to reach and treat children suffering from malnutrition.
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