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
Tags: Niger Africa World Vision