22 July 2005 BBC report
says aid from France is arriving in Niger. More food is expected to be flown in by the UN's World Food Programme over the weekend.
Note, the report says the food crisis had been predicted for almost a year and the Niger government has sought to downplay the scale of the crisis, refusing demands to distribute free food, and aid workers in Niger say that up to a quarter of the country's 12 million people need food aid. Excerpt:
A plane carrying food aid has landed in Niger, where some 150,000 children are said to be facing starvation.
However, the BBC's Hilary Andersson in southern Niger says the 16 tons of aid is a "drop in the ocean".
Some 23,000 tons of food are needed for more than 2.5m people, the UN says. The food crisis follows poor rains and locust invasions last year.
Children are dying every day and many are too sick to make it to the few feeding centres which have been set up.
The plane carrying oil, sugar and Plumpynut - a highly nutritious paste for young children - was sent by French aid agency Reunir.
Photo: An employee at Marseille-Proovence airport looks over crates filled with 18 tons of food supplies bound for Niger. After months of desperate appeals, Niger began receiving shipments of emergency food aid from western development partners. (AFP/Patrick Valasseris July 22, 2005)
Another airlift is expected over the weekend, containing 40 tons of millet and 28 tons of oil, says the UN's World Food Programme.
In a single feeding centre, about 20 children out of 100 children have died in the past few weeks, our correspondent says.
Photo: A worker with the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) registers the names of malnourished children at a feeding centre in the town of Guidan Roumdji in southern Niger June 30, 2005. The worst drought in years has left 3.6 million people short of food in the West African country. Already counted among the poorest of the world's poor, Niger's farmers simply cannot afford to buy what is still on offer. Their children, in ones and twos, are beginning to die, for want of a few cents worth of food. Poverty is killing them. As the Group of Eight industrialised countries meet in Scotland next week to discuss ways to help Africa, Niger's emaciated children provide a case study of rich world inaction. (REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly July 2, 2005)
The charity Oxfam said families were feeding their children grass and leaves from trees to keep them alive.
Photo: Swiss Jean Ziegler, UN special rapporteur of the commission on human rights on the right to food, shows a plant called Anza, a bitter fruit people in Niger are obliged to eat because of severe food shortage, as he speaks about the food situation in Niger after returning from a mission in the central African country, at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, July 13, 2005. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini July 13, 2005)
The UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, on Wednesday accused the international community of reacting slowly to the crisis in Niger.
The crisis was widely predicted after last year's poor harvests but initial food appeals went largely unheeded.
The Niger government has also sought to downplay the scale of the crisis, refusing demands to distribute free food.
"The world wakes up when we see images on the TV and when we see children dying," Mr Egeland told the BBC's World Today programme.
Photo: Women carry water from a well at the village of Koumboula in southern Niger July 1, 2005. The United Nations said on July 12, 2005 it needed to provide emergency food aid in Niger for almost three times as many people as initially estimated, partly because donors had been slow to react to the crisis. Starving children are dying every day in aid-agency feeding centres in the arid West African nation, where the worst drought in years has aggravated chronic food shortages and left some 3.6 million people -- roughly a quarter of the population -- hungry. Picture taken July 1, 2005. (REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly July 12. 2005)
The slow response has greatly increased the cost of dealing with the crisis, aid workers say.
"The funding needs are sky-rocketing because it's a matter of saving lives," WFP Niger representative Gian Carlo Cirri said.
"The pity is we designed a preventative strategy early enough, but we didn't have the chance to implement it."
Aid workers in Niger say that up to a quarter of the country's 12 million people need food aid.
The UN has now received only a third of the $30m it had asked for, Mr Egeland said.
Mr Egeland also said that beyond immediate food aid, the world should help Niger improve its agricultural methods to avoid future food crises - but this programme had received even fewer pledges.
Photo: Girls carry basins of water at a village in southern Niger, June 30, 2005. Rains on Niger's dust-blown fields have kindled hopes a devastating drought may be ending, but relief workers warned on Monday that more aid was needed to save starving children. Rich nations largely ignored Niger's calls for help last year when failed rains and locusts pushed 3.6 million people to the brink of starvation in the arid West African country, which has difficulty feeding itself even in good years. Picture taken July 1, 2005. (REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly July 18, 2005)
Tags: Niger Africa G8 Oxfam Anza aid workers UN starvation West Africa Jan Egeland Plumpynut Doctors Without Borders famine locusts Hilary Andersson BBC