Five million at risk in Niger

Friday 18 May 2012 15.32
This photo near Niamey shows villagers from western Niger who have fled their village
This photo near Niamey shows villagers from western Niger who have fled their village

Ray Kennedy reports from the Sahel Saharan region of west Africa as aid agencies race to prevent a famine that could affect 15 million.

Tonight as we arrived in the Niger capital Niamey there was a warning that over five million in this vast country alone could be affected. Niger is ranked at the very bottom of UN scales for development and poverty. Beaten into last place by Congo.

As we approached the capital’s airport, the land below is barren and dry, sand storms rise thousands of feet into the air to meet our aircraft. The desert seems to continue forever.

In between the sand clouds, glimpses of villages we will travel to over the coming days. Isolated hamlets where people have lived for centuries. Now a way of life is under threat.

The capital Niamey is a pleasant city nestled on the Niger River. The same sand from the desert blowing a storm across as we made our way into the commercial centre.

It makes life moving around this city difficult, but in the exposed desert it makes the situation desperate.

They’ve had little or no food for over two years since the crops failed in 2010. They have still not recovered from this crisis.

Now erratic rains, pest attacks, dry soil and soaring prices mean all of the work done by the international community could be undone in a matter of weeks.

Coupled with this, the difficulty unrest in the region is causing. Thousands flood across the border form Mali in search of help from a neighbouring country barely able to feed its own people. The government is now working hard with charities like Concern and Oxfam to get food and water to them.

To the east, traditional destinations for migrant workers from Niger, such as Libya, are no longer available.

In the coming days we will meet those most in need and report on the true of extent of the emergency engulfing not just Niger, but neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania.

Keywords: west africa, niger
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