UN development and humanitarian chiefs arrive in Niger to draw attention to looming food crisis

16 Feb 2012

Niamey/New York - United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Valerie Amos arrived today in Niamey for a joint two-day visit to draw attention to the looming food and nutrition crisis in Niger and in the Sahel region.

One third of Nigeriens suffer from food insecurity and 330,000 children under five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition because of last year’s poor harvest and high food prices.  More than one million children under five are at risk in the region.

“We know what is coming, and we know what to do to save lives. While we cannot stop this crisis from taking place, we are taking steps to avert a catastrophe. Across the Sahel region, international agencies have called for more than US $724 million to support national efforts to respond to the crisis. To date, donors have provided $135 million, and relief activities have already begun. But we need more resources now to prevent a large-scale crisis,” said Valerie Amos.

The joint mission aims to build the foundations of an integrated regional approach between emergency and development activities to help people in the region adjust to climate and other environmental changes and to strengthen their resilience and livelihood in the longer term.

“While we cannot control droughts, we can control famine,” said Helen Clark. “The humanitarian response must bridge to long-term development if Niger is to build resilience to drought and break the cycle of recurrent food shortages.”

Helen Clark and Valerie Amos met with Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and key Ministers working on food security to discuss the Government’s plans to address the issue, and how the United Nations can work with them in the coming months on the humanitarian response and longer term development issues that have contributed to the food and nutrition challenges facing the country. They also met with NGOs active in Niger and with the UN Country Team.

On Friday 17 February, Valerie Amos and Helen Clark will travel to the south-western Tillabéry Region to see local projects that promote food security and tackle malnutrition. They will also meet with President Mahamadou Issoufou and donors.

Contact Information

OCHA:
Niger: Franck Kuwonu +227 96 00 94 96, kuwonu@un.org; Rémi Dourlot, + 221 77 569 9653, dourlot@un.org;
Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs, +4179 473 5126, byrs@un.org; New York: Amanda Pitt, +1 917 442 1810, pitta@un.org

UNDP:
Niger/New York: Christina LoNigro, +1 917 607 9446, + 227 91 20 8333, Christina.lonigro@undp.org