Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Spotlight on Darfur 1 and The Darfur Collection

Last May, Catez Stevens at Allthings2all in New Zealand kindly put together The Darfur Collection.

Now, Catez is initiating and hosting Spotlight on Darfur 1 starting September 1. It will feature posts on the current Darfur situation from various bloggers. If you are a blogger and would like to send in a post for inclusion in the Spotlight on Darfur please email Catez for details.

Eugene Oregon at Coalition for Darfur helpfully writes Reminder: Spotlight on Darfur 1.

Note, Catez is planning a regular series of Spotlight on Darfur. If you have missed Darfur 1, there is still plenty of time to prepare a post for Spotlight on Darfur 2 or 3 or 4 ...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Large areas of the aid system are in urgent need of reform

The government has been accused of wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of African aid in Malawi.

BBC's Five Live Report found more than GBP 700,000 was spent on hotel bills and meals for US workers over four years. BBC Aug 28, 2005 report excerpts:

The National Audit Office said it may mount an investigation into the use of consultants by the Department for International Development (DFID).

One project in Malawi funded by the DFID has been accused of using international flights to fly in pens and notebooks bought in Washington DC.

Patrick Watt of charity Action Aid said: "(This is) another example of aid money not really getting down to people who most urgently need to benefit from it."

He said: "It's an example of phantom aid, when what Malawi needs is real aid."

Conservative international development spokesman Andrew Mitchell said there appears to have been a breakdown in "transparency and accountability".

"DFID need to get a grip and explain what has happened," Mr Mitchell said.

US agencies which had been brought in as consultants included the National Democratic Institute (NDI), used on a project to improve the parliamentary committee system in Malawi.

The GBP 1m donated to the project from US funds was used solely to pay for NDI staff there, the BBC report said.

Over the four years of the project, the DFID donated GBP 3m to the project. Of that, GBP 586,423 was spent on hotels in Malawi for the NDI staff. Another GBP 126,062 was spent on meals.

An ex-staff member said computers, notebooks and other stationery had been bought in Washington DC and flown over rather than bought locally.

World Learning, a US group which had been brought in to distribute GBP 4m of British money to strengthen Malawian society had to cancel the project after six months and a cost of GBP 300,000. Dozens of local staff face losing their jobs.

Mr Watt said the large amounts of money spent of administration and overseas staff meant "there are large areas of the aid system that are in urgent need of reform".

Malawian campaigner Rafiq Hajat said: "Where you have so-called experts who come from outside, charge exorbitant fees, live a five-star lifestyle and then go back having left a couple of reports mouldering on the shelf, that's how I would define phantom aid."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Africa to announce TB emergency

BBC Health Correspondent Ania Lichtarowicz reports today that health Ministers from across Africa are meeting in Mozambique to discuss the growing numbers of tuberculosis (TB) cases across the region.

Africa is particularly hit because of co-infections with HIV and a lack of health infrastructure to monitor and treat the disease.

The WHO hopes that by making TB a regional health emergency, it will put the disease back on the agenda.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Red Cross worker's Niger diary - UN chief promises aid for Niger

Red Cross worker Mark Snelling is about to return from Niger to London - in his diary he writes of signs of hope and says:
There will be many lessons for the world to learn from Niger once the emergency has passed.

Donors, governments, NGOs and the media must examine why we need to wait for a crisis to erupt before we fully respond. But we can also be proud of work well done.

Aid work must not be sentimentalised. Narcissistic rescue fantasies do not save lives.

There are ugly politics and crazy decisions here, just like everywhere else.

I have encountered some of the best people I've ever met in the humanitarian world, and on occasion some of the worst.

Blanket criticism of aid intervention will not help anyone either. Human suffering will always be with us, whatever we might say about making poverty history.
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UN chief tours impoverished Niger

Kofi Annan visits eastern Niger to view a crippling food crisis that critics say the UN is failing to address properly.

Full story at BBC.
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UN chief promises aid for Niger

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has promised Niger all the aid it needs to cope with the food crisis.

He was speaking after meeting President Mamadou Tandja at the end of his two-day trip to Niger.

The talks follow criticism of the UN's response to the shortages, which are affecting more than 2.5m people, with 32,000 children facing death.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said this week the UN's response was inadequate.

Mr Tandja has also criticised the UN effort, saying the problems have been exaggerated.

"We discussed the food crisis in Niger and in the region, and measures that ought to be taken to ensure what has happened this year, does not happen in the future," Mr Annan said. "But quite a lot of it requires regional cooperation."

He was also meeting local officials from UN and other aid agencies.

The UN has run an appeal but has been accused of not acting quickly enough and of not ensuring that the aid gets to those who need it most.

Less than half the $81m (GBP 45m) called for by the UN has been pledged by international donors, the organisation says.

Full story at BBC Aug 24. 2005.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Patriarchy in Niger - The men take control

From British blogger Mick Hartley:

The men take control.

Mainstream media and bloggers write about food aid to Niger

In his post about mainstream media, blogs and Niger, British blogger Tim Worstall points to an interesting blog entry at Owen's musings on Niger, markets and famine.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Niger way of life 'under threat'

A report from BBC today says Niger's way of life is under threat if Niger's nomads to not get long-term help to rebuild their herds and livelihoods.

"For Niger's nomads, the situation is desperate. To these people, losing your animals is like losing your life savings. Without their animals, they have no means of survival," said Natasha Kofoworola Quist, Oxfam's Regional Director for West Africa.

"Twelve centuries of nomadic culture are threatened with extinction if these people do not get long-term help to rebuild their livelihoods," she added.

The food shortages were caused by an early end to last year's rainy season, locusts and chronic long-term poverty in Niger, the second poorest country in the world.

"Food aid alone will not solve this crisis. For nomads who have lost all or most of their animals, the harvest will make little difference," said Ms Kofoworola Quist.

[Someone has just emailed me saying: "As I said before: 'Too many people in the wrong place'. This planet doesn't give a damn about 'twelve centuries'."]


Friday, August 12, 2005

West Africa hunger map - Africa hunger 'likely to worsen'

Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso have also been badly affected by food shortages.

Click here for information at BBC news online on the situation in each country.

British blogger Keith asks: What will you do?
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Africa hunger 'likely to worsen'

BBC report August 11, 2005:

The number of malnourished people in sub-Saharan Africa has soared from 88 million in 1970 to 200 million in 1999-2001, the research found.

The overall percentage of malnourished Africans has actually remained constant over the past 30 years, at about 35%.

Absolute numbers have gone up due to Africa's population growth.

The report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) predicts that the Millennium Development goal to halve child malnutrition in Africa by 2015 will fail unless more radical steps are taken now.

It says the number of malnourished children could grow from 38.6 million now to 41.9 million by 2025.

Indirect causes of malnutrition include poor governance, lack of investment in agriculture, inadequate infrastructure and limited access to markets.

Building roads and boosting the information and communication technology sectors would have a positive impact, too, because it would improve productivity and create new markets, the report says.

In order to reach the target of halving hunger by 2015, at least $303bn must be invested - a prospect the report describes as "daunting".

"When the United Nations' member countries meet on 14 September, they have the opportunity to make good on the promises made five years ago," said Mark Rosegrant, the lead author of the report.

"If they are serious [about fulfilling their promises], they need to accelerate the pace of change in Africa."


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Food crisis 'runs across Africa'

A report today by the BBC says with attention on food shortages in Niger, aid agencies say a vast hunger belt is stretching across Africa.

People across Africa are affected, from Niger in central Africa to Somalia on the Indian Ocean seaboard.

Latest reports from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network say over 20m people are at risk from food shortages.

The Famine Early Warning network, made up of a variety of aid agencies including the aid arm of the US government, USAid, says no fewer than seven African states are facing food emergencies.

These are mostly on the fringes of the Sahara desert and stretch from Niger, through Chad and Sudan, to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.


Photographs of Niger - Trickle Up Program: Alleviating poverty one business at a time

Guardian photographer Dan Chung travelled to Niger with reporter Jeevan Vasagar to report on the country's food crisis. See Dan Chung's photographs of Niger, a selection of images from their visit.
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Trickle Up Program: Alleviating poverty one business at a time

Excerpt from Paul Staines' post at the Globalization Institute blog August 7, 2005 on the Trickle Up Program:

Alleviating poverty one business at a time -
Jobs, profits and opportunities for growth depend on individual enterprise and an economic climate that supports growth through trade.

Founded in 1979, the mission of Trickle Up is to help the lowest income people worldwide take the first steps up out of poverty, by providing conditional seed capital, business training and relevant support services essential to the launch or expansion of a microenterprise. This proven social and economic empowerment model is implemented in partnership with local agencies.

Trickle Up has supported over 130,000 businesses in more than 120 countries. Currently, Trickle Up is focusing its efforts in fourteen core countries. These countries are Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Mali, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, and Uganda and the United States.
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Snippets from bloggers on food crisis in Niger

Aug 7 - Famine in Niger post by Padraig O' Beaglaoich , a 26 year old Youth & Community Worker in Galway, Connacht, Ireland:
Following a severe drought and a plague of locusts, over 5 million people face imminent starvation in Niger as I write.
July 31 - Bill's Big Diamond Blog features a post on Rove entitled "Perjury, He Spoke":
BEFORE Joe Wilson wrote his Op Ed piece on Niger in July, 2003, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post inquired about the “unnamed former diplomat” who had gone to Niger and come back with a negative report on the yellowcake uranium story.

According to Massimo Calabresi at Time, this is what set off the White House into circling the wagons and looking for ways to discredit the Pincus report, now known to be true, that the Niger deal with Iraq for WMD had never gone down.

Niger: Famine or no famine?

Note Famine or no famine? by British blogger Keith at under the acacias blog.

Keith says, in strict definition at least, President Tanja of Niger is correct. Please read the full post.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Niger president says there is no famine in Niger

What is really going in Niger? A BBC report today quotes Niger president Tanja as saying the current food crisis did not amount to a famine. Excerpt:
"We are experiencing like all the countries in the Sahel a food crisis due to the poor harvest and the locust attacks of 2004," Mr Tanja said.

"There is no famine in Niger," he said. "All those who are saying there is a famine either have political motivations or an economic interest.

He said if it were a real famine, shanty towns would form around the big towns, people would flee to neighbouring countries and street beggars would become more prevalent. Mr Tanja said this had not happened.

He said of the $45m promised to Niger in aid to help it deal with the food crisis, only $2.5m had been received by his government.

Also, the report says UN estimates that up to three million of Niger's 12 million population are suffering food shortages and 32,000 children with severe malnutrition are facing death without the necessary food and medical treatment.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Niger: British Red Cross aid worker's diary

Mark Snelling is a member of the British Red Cross Society's Emergence Response Unit in Niger.

See his diary at the BBC News website.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Niger: "Why didn't help get there sooner?"

Following on from previous posts below, note this excerpt from a post on Famine in Niger at the Salmon blog July 31, 2005:

"As for the bigger picture, listen to Marc Snelling, a member of the British Red Cross Society's Emergency Response Unit, as he responds to the question "Why didn't help get there sooner?"
"There is no single easy answer.

One could say that government and UN strategies didn't work as well as they might have done; international donors were slow to respond despite aid agency warnings; it is also the case that it was hard to assess that a chronically deficient food situation was turning acute.

Of one thing I'm certain. It's easy to say that we should 'Make Poverty History'. It sounds good.

But there are huge changes that need to be made on every level - political, economic and humanitarian - before that can happen.

For the time being, though, this is an emergency that we and many others are responding to, right here and right now. The wider questions will have to wait."
We've talked about the wider questions in the past, and we'll continue the discussion in the weeks to come. But for now, if you'd like to find out more about Niger or if you'd like to donate to organizations that are at work in Niger, here are a few links."

[Hello Salmon blog: thanks for linking to Niger Watch. Over the past year, I have posted on the wider questions and look forward to following your discussions in the weeks to come.]


Drought-Ravaged Niger: The 'Hunger Season' - Some weakened kids are 'letting themselves die

If only Newsweek and journalists like Eric Pape could read yesterday's post here below, they might report the fact that emergency aid does not come cheap when it is flown in at the last minute and by not coming in time, it costs countless lives and unimagineable suffering.

Newsweek August 15, 2005 features an article on Niger by Eric Pape. Note this excerpt:
At the latest count, 160,000 children in Niger were still suffering from serious malnutrition, and the lives of 32,000 were at immediate risk.

August is always a hard time in Niger. They call it the hunger season - when all the grain has been eaten and the autumn harvest has not begun. This year, food ran short months ago. Relief groups have been warning of an impending famine since last October, but their pleas went mostly unheard, especially after the South Asian tsunami in December. The delay's consequences were visible last week all around Maradi, a town of perhaps 150,000 inhabitants in the southern grasslands. Doctors and aid workers at the Center for Muslims of Africa couldn't handle all those seeking food for their children. Overflow crowds blocked the entrances, banging on the metal gates and howling to get in.
Also, Eric Pape writes:
Can Niger's next crisis be prevented? Nearly a quarter of the country's 12 million or so people have no money for food when crops fail. What they need, development experts say, are modern farm tools, irrigation equipment and seed to raise crops that are more productive, more diverse and drought-resistant. Emergency aid isn't cheap - and it never comes in time to save all the children.
Links and reports in Newsweek's sidebar:

An article in Newsweek Augusut 5, 2005 entitled "Crisis in Niger" says a perfect storm of negatives has led to a food crisis for millions. Excerpt:
It was a crisis-in-the-making that should have been averted, says Mark Malloch Brown, chief of staff to the U.N. secretary-general. "What is happening was largely foreseeable as early as November," he says.

But despite appeals for donations then, the Asian tsunami and then the violence-plagued famine in the Darfur region of Sudan diverted attention from Niger.

"We do find it hard to deal with more than one crisis," says Malloch Brown.

In fact, it wasn't until British television aired reports last month that Niger was seen as a place in desperate need. Now, a crisis that could have been treated last year for about a dollar for each person in need will now cost eight times that much, and perhaps thousands of lives.
Also, the article quotes an aid worker:
In a country that's not at war and has no problems of access, people are hungry to the point of death because help simply didn't get there quickly.

"It's one of the easier countries [to help]. It's one of the countries that we shouldn't have let slip," says Dominic MacSorley, a veteran aid worker with Concern Worldwide.
Millions in Niger face starvation

Photo: A woman who received goods from a U.N. food program smiles as she walks home in the small town of Tsaki, Niger, on Tuesday. (Schalk Van Zuydam/AP courtesy Newsweek)

Related stories at Newsweek:

August 4, 2005 - Niger's children most at risk video: Of Niger's 12 million people, more than a fourth are at risk for extreme hunger and malnutrition, the United Nations says, with children especially vulnerable. Geraint Vincent of Britain's ITN reports.

Famine in Niger

August 8, 2005 "Africa: Crisis in Niger & Sudan" Dan Toole, Director, Office of Emergency Programs, UNICEF and Suliman Baldo, Program Director for Africa, International Crisis Group. Click here for audio clip, complete show, podcast.

August 5, 2005 (Associated Press) U.N. issues urgent appeal for Niger: Hunger caused by drought, locusts threatens hundreds of thousands.

July 30, 2005 (Reuters) Famine alert U.N. urges help for Niger: Health agency says dramatic increase in disease is possible.

Millions in Niger face starvation despite well-stocked markets, over half of nation survives on $1 per day

Blog Talk - Read here what bloggers are saying about this Newsweek article "Drought-Ravaged Niger: The 'Hunger Season'" right now.
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African musicians to raise money for Niger hunger

August 5, 2005 via NIAMEY (Reuters):

A host of African musicians will stage a concert to raise money to fight a hunger crisis in Niger on Saturday, where an estimated 3.6 million people are facing food shortages, the culture ministry said.

Among the artists expected to perform in the main 30,000 capacity stadium in the capital Niamey will be Ivorian singers Dj Christy B, TV5 Fouka Fouka and Kilabongo and Nigerien groups Kaydan Gaskiya, Queen ZM and Kamikaze


John Bolton

Hopefully, John Bolton will give the UN's World Food Programme a shake up to help prevent another disaster like what happened in Darfur and Niger.

John Bolton

AP report and cartoons via Cox & Forkum Aug 1, 2005:

Bush Appoints Bolton, Bypassing Senate

President Bush sidestepped the Senate and installed embattled nominee John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, ending a five-month impasse with Democrats who accused Bolton of abusing subordinates and twisting intelligence to fit his conservative ideology.

"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform," Bush said. He said Bolton had his complete confidence.

UN China Shop


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Now we know part of the answer to: Why starving in Niger?

Huge thanks to Tim Worstall for pointing out the following post by Aunty Marianne in Brussels, Belgium who, in her blog Tomato And Basil Sandwiches describes her occupation in 'government' as 'spending your money on humanitarian aid'.

Here is the post, copied in full, just incase Aunty Marianne decides for one reason or another to delete it, as it helps answer my question Why starving in Niger?

Saturday, August 06, 2005
OK, I'm fed up and others aren't

I am fed up to the back teeth with this whingeing about donors not reacting on the Niger famine. The EU have been actively looking for aid partners to spend 4.6 million euros since April. The reason why people are starving in Niger now, in August, is because some of those who asked for it to be made available for their feeding projects didn't get their proposals for actual projects in before early July. I also know for a fact that one of the organisations has a massive "emergency reserve" lying in wait for the famine almost certainly about to happen in a certain southern African country, a reserve that could have easily been tapped and replenished. They did not need to wait for donor funds to react.

We've had to release another 1.7m euros now that IMHO we wouldn't have had to, had they taken the first lot in time, because now, for example, therapeutic milk has to be airfreighted in instead of sea/road-shipped, and that's more expensive than the milk itself.

I am disgusted with the blamestorming around this famine, especially when the primary culprits are the ones pointing the finger, I'm disgusted at the waste of time and therefore money and all the additional suffering that it has caused to should-be-beneficiaries, and I wish the reputable media would check their facts better before blindly repeating press releases.

As always, this is just my personal view of things, and in no way necessarily represents the position of my employers.
posted by Aunty Marianne @ 10:59 AM
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[My first reaction to Aunty Marianne's post was disgust but not surprise because of what happened in Darfur last year when the UN and its World Food Programme admitted they acted too slowly and had to resort to costly air drops despite the long predicted rainy season. There is something terribly wrong with emergency aid responses and the way they are funded and reported.

A week or so ago I saw a top British politician (Hilary Benn I think) interviewed on UK television news. It may have been a Channel 4 News interview by Jon Snow who asked point blank why the long predicted food crisis in Niger was not responded to. The politician concluded by saying the "system" was not perfect and needed overhauling.

I say, once again, there is no accountability. Whoever is responsible for this scandal, not to mention the outrageous waste of precious public funds, is getting away with murder. Sorry for putting it so strongly but it is sickening to know the money for emergency food aid is there but the people entrusted by the public don't respond in time and then blame donors for not paying up. Of course, it then creates more publicity and an outcry which generates more funds before the food aid has even been delivered. Meanwhile, people starve to death and suffer unimagineable pain, grief and misery and the excuse all because the "system" needs overhauling. If heads rolled over this, the nameless "system" might get overhauled sooner.]

Previous posts:

Aug 2, 2005 - Could the Crisis in Niger Have Been Avoided?

Aug 2, 2005 - BBC's Hilary Andersson reporting on Niger


Friday, August 05, 2005

Niger's Anguish Is Reflected in Its Dying Children

The New York Times

One child in five is dying - the result of a belated response by the outside world to a food crisis predicted nine months ago.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

West African Food Crisis

Please read Keith's important post on the West African Food Crisis highlighting the fact that although Niger has been the worst hit so far, and has had the most attention, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania are also badly affected.


Mauritania officers 'seize power' - Overthrown President Taya has arrived in Niger

Mauritanian army officers have announced the overthrow of the country's president and creation of a military council to rule the country.

The council said it had ended the "totalitarian regime" of Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya. President Taya, attending the funeral of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd at the time, was flown to Niger's capital, Niamey.

It named security chief Col Ely Ould Mohammed Vall as the new leader.

The national armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct authority Officers' statement.

The new Military Council for Justice and Democracy said it would rule the West African state for a transitional period of two years, after which it would organise free and fair elections.

President Taya took power in a bloodless coup in December 1984 and has been re-elected three times since.

Correspondents say he later made enemies among Islamists in the country, which is an Islamic republic.


Dominated by light-skinned Arabic-speakers (Moors)
Black Africans complain of discrimination
Mostly desert
Islamic republic
Recognises Israel
Mauritania is deeply divided between three main groups - light-skinned Arabic-speakers, descendents of slaves and dark-skinned speakers of West African languages.

Source: BBC news online. See today's report that provides links to:

Army coup: Full statement
Q&A: Power struggles

Excerpts from the report:
There were street celebrations in the capital, Nouakchott, as troops controlled key points. African and world bodies condemned the action.

The African Union said it "strongly condemns any seizure of power or any attempt to take power by force".

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was "deeply troubled" by the reports, insisting political disagreements should be settled peacefully and democratically, a spokesman said.
Note, the report quotes President Olusegun Obasanjo of regional powerhouse Nigeria as saying "the days of tolerating military governance in our sub-region or anywhere" were "long gone".

[Eh? What about all the rebels groups fighting for power in countries like Uganda, DR Congo and the regime in the Sudan? The Islamic regime in Khartoum stole power through a coup. And what about the Southern Sudan rebel group SPLM's 21 year war to take control of South Sudan? And the Darfur rebel groups SLA and JEM fighting to take control of Darfur? My understanding is none were democratically elected. They all appear to be fighting for power using the barrel of a gun. African politics sure are confusing.]
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UPDATE: AU punishes Mauritania over coup

Via BBC Aug 5, 2005:

The African Union (AU) has suspended Mauritania's membership in protest at the coup there on Wednesday, saying it must restore "constitutional order".

Ministers will travel to the capital, Nouakchott, to inform the coup leaders officially of the AU's position.

Under AU rules, a country is automatically suspended if it brings about unconstitutional changes.
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The Arabization of Mauritania

Update Aug 6 - the crossfader writes this:

From Business Day (Jo'berg):

For the past two decades ethnic black Mauritanians have been systematically driven from the country's southern region by an Arab-led government vying to take control of the fertile lands of the southern valley.

More than 120000 "Negro-Mauritanians" have been deported to neighbouring Mali and Senegal, and forced to live in squalid refugee camps unnoticed by the international community, says Abdarahmane Wone, communications director for North America of the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania.

Overseeing the brutal campaign is President Maaouya Ould Sid'Hamed Taya, who has been in power for about 22 years.

We can add this to the list of things that will not receive attention this millennium.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Why starving in Niger?

Why starving in Niger?

Photo: An emaciated boy waits for treatment at an emergency feeding centre in the town of Tahoua in northwestern Niger, August 2, 2005.

Reuters says Niger's food crisis shows how the world often only reacts to pleas for help from the poorest countries after missing earlier opportunities to avert disaster, forcing donors to pay for much costlier emergency aid.

Relief workers blame the neglect partly on a general fatigue for African hunger crises from Malawi to Sudan, but Niger has raised more complex questions over aid policy, funding and longer-term solutions. (Reuters/Finbarr via Yahoo)


Could the Crisis in Niger Have Been Avoided?

Sorry, still unable to post original commentary here right now. Just wanted to log these initial news reports on Niger. Everyone seems to be asking the questions that ought to have been asked last year about Darfur.

Note the following copy of a press release from World Vision via PR Newswire Aug 2, 2005 entitled Could the Crisis in Niger Have Been Avoided?:

- The United Nations issued warnings last November, but other more immediate crises diverted donors' attention.
- "Niger is a good example of a hidden emergency that could have been prevented." - Jules Frost, World Vision

As images of starving children in the African nation of Niger appear in the news media, the world is witnessing a harsh reminder of the cost of ignoring an emerging famine. Those responding to the crisis are asking, "Was the crisis in Niger inevitable?"

"The crisis in Niger is a good example of a hidden emergency that could have been prevented," says Jules Frost, World Vision's Director for Emergency Response. "After the locust invasion and the drought wiped out the crops last year, it was easy to predict the food emergency we have in Niger today. The warnings were sounded, but unfortunately the world's attention was on the immediate crisis of the day."

Frost noted that Niger's leaders, along with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies government, in cooperation with international relief agencies, issued warnings last November. However, other, more immediate crises, such as Darfur in Sudan and later in December and January, the Asian tsunami, diverted the attention of private and public donors, as well as the news media.

According to the United Nations, of the $16 million the U.N. requested for Niger food aid several months ago, less than a third had been received until about 10 days ago -- when the first stories of the crisis images began appearing in the media.

"Now we are watching the images of starving children on television, and for many of those children, it is too late," Frost says. "But it is not too late to save countless others."

About 2.5 million people in Niger -- or 20 percent of the population -- urgently need food assistance, the U.N. says. One in five children is severely malnourished.

World Vision has been working in areas where about 400,000 people are at risk of starvation, Frost says. The organization is expanding nutritional feeding centers and distributing emergency food rations, in addition to providing health services in some areas, particularly in the hard-hit regions of Maradi and Zinder.

The Christian humanitarian agency also is working with local communities to address the root causes of Niger's crisis through the provision of clean water, healthcare, diversified agriculture, and education.

Frost notes that people in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan, as well as other nations, also are experiencing rapidly increasing malnutrition rates and that now is the time to invest to prevent famines elsewhere across the continent.

World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. The agency serves the world's poor, regardless of a person's religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

Source: World Vision


BBC's Hilary Andersson reporting on Niger

Today, BBC NEWS online says "many of you have asked about the BBC's coverage of Niger. How did news crews hear about the crisis and has the resulting footage helped? Hilary Andersson reports on her assignment and what it achieved."

Read all about it at "Reporting the crisis in Niger".
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What bloggers are saying

Excellent in depth post on Famine in Niger from the Salmon.

Aldon Hynes at John DeStefano for Connecticut Governor blog links to a CNN article about the drought and famine in Niger.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Sudanese VP Dr John Garang DeMabior, 13 Others Die in Plane Crash

See news on the tragic death of Dr Garang at Sudan Watch: Sudan's first VP and former rebel leader killed.