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Crisis in Niger

The International Federation response to the hunger crisis in West Africa has been an extraordinary undertaking. Last year’s drought combined with an invasion of locusts put millions of people in urgent
need of help.

The Red Cross emergency response, which was launched in late July, began with a handful of delegates in Niger’s capital Niamey, a couple of 4x4 cars and some communications equipment. A month later, 30 international staff and hundreds of National Society volunteers were distributing thousands of tonnes of desperately needed food and medicine at feeding centres across the region.

In Niger, some 24,500 malnourished children under five years old will receive nutritional supplements over the next six months. Their families will also receive a so-called protection ration of rice, beans and oil. In neighbouring Mali, nomadic communities in the north will receive general rations, and 2,200 families have already been fed in Burkina Faso. Strategies to support livelihoods in the longer term are also under development.

In cooperation with National Societies and the World Food Programme, the International Federation will reach some 532,000 people over the next six months, a pivotal contribution to the international aid response.

The first truck of the day arrives loaded with Unimix (enriched flour that is boiled with water to make a nutritious porridge) and family rations. Aside from supplying feeding centres, the International Federation has also reached agreement with the World Food Programme to distribute cereals, lentils and oil
to almost a quarter of a million people in Niger.
©Mark Snelling / British Red Cross

The Red Cross Society of Niger organized one of the first food distributions in late July. A central long-term focus of the International Federation’s operation will be to support and enhance the capacity of the National Society to deal with food shortages.
©Mark Snelling / British Red Cross

There are now at least 30 International Federation delegates in the region, but the operation would simply not be possible without the hard work and dedication of volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Niger, many of whom have received specialist training.
©Olav A. Saltbones/ Norwegian Red Cross

Rabi Ibrahim arrives at the Red Cross supplementary feeding centre in Tahoua with her 21-month-old daughter Hadiza. Tahoua is one of the areas worst affected by Niger’s food crisis. Rabi is visibly relieved to be here. Hadiza looks weary. Her hair is thinning and has turned rusty red, textbook symptoms of malnutrition. Hadiza shows the registration card that she received yesterday. Clutching the bag of precious Unimix that she will feed to Hadiza, she moves through to another compound where she will pick up the ration of rice, oil and beans for the rest of her family.
©Mark Snelling / British Red Cross

Relief delegate Mohamed Radhi oversees the queue of beneficiaries. More than 650 moderately malnourished children have been registered for this distribution. They will all receive a ration of Unimix. In addition, their families receive 30 kilograms of rice as well as oil and beans. There are many long-term challenges for Niger that will need to be addressed. The International Federation will focus on maintaining livelihoods once the emergency phase is over. The harvest at the end of September will help stabilize the situation. But for now, desperately hungry people will have something to eat.
©Mark Snelling / British Red Cross

“I just can’t imagine what we would have done without this,” says Rabi as she feeds Hadiza. “It would have been a really, really desperate situation, but tonight I will be able to feed my family.”
©Mark Snelling / British Red Cross


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