Six million people in Niger face food shortages this year due to a poor harvest, rising food prices, and regional insecurity, according to Save the Children.
The charity warns that half the afflicted will be children.
The lean months in Niger, a country where more than 65 percent of the people live on less than $1.25 a day, are usually from April to August. This year, erratic rainfall and insect attacks led to failed harvests, leaving the country unprepared for widespread hunger.
Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for the Red Cross in Dakar Per Becker told Voice of America that food prices have spiked 25 to 30 percent, and cross-border trade with Nigeria has slowed because of sectarian clashes.
“The numbers of people that we are expecting being malnourished is just increasing all the time," he said. "We are now seeing over three million people facing hunger and food insecurity,” said Becker.
Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International says drought in Niger and the global economy is already causing families to live on a third less food and money than is “necessary to survive.”
“For countries such as Niger, which have to import a lot of food to feed their populations, a global rise in food prices can have a life and death impact. Already, crops are falling way below expectations, due to poor rains,” she writes on Al Jazeera.
Aid organizations are currently seeking emergency funds to avert famine, but say time is running out. In late November the United Nations warned that poor harvests have already left more than half of Niger’s “in a food and nutritional crisis.”
The Red Cross says regionally, nearly 10 million people in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and areas of Senegal are at risk. The agency says more than 15 percent of children under 5 years old suffer from acute malnutrition, 40 percent more than last year.
Amadou Tidjane Amadou, a spokesperson Red Cross Society of Niger says the failed crops have also left the population without jobs. In an article on the organization's website he reports:
“Before the people sold their animals, but now with the crisis all of the sheep and goats are dead. Without this usual source of income, people in the villages are suffering.”