Ray Kennedy - at a clinic with severely malnourished children in Niger - reports from deep inside Niger desert where ancient Tuareg tribe fear for the future of their villages.

Her name was Souweba Oumarou, she was born one year ago in Niger. Unlike many babies born on planet Earth that day, she was born in Niger and was on the brink of death on a sunny warm morning in the town of Tahoua.

She was born into a country at the very bottom of world rankings for infant mortality. Her mother, dazed with fear, had made a trek of 40km across harsh desert land to get her to a clinic where she might be saved.

She was skin and bone, dehydrated, starving. Her mother, Roufaida, told us there was little or no food in her village of Toro. They needed help, and many children were suffering.

Nurses and medics worked for over an hour to find veins that could support rehydrating fluids and vitamins. Her body, so worn away, only yielded to their persistence and experience at the very end and drips were attached.

We were allowed to stay with her, because her mother wanted the story of children like her to be told. The lengths the medics went to in helping her are best not described. She was listless and weak, her bright eyes barely able to focus as doctors and nurses worked on her. Her mother held her hand.

Dr Sabo Sahabi told me he is seeing more cases like this, since the crops failed last year and rains didn’t arrive to make food from seeds planted in the spring. What did grow was eaten away by pests.

This story is being repeated across the Sahel Saharan belt of central and west Africa. Aid agencies like Concern and Oxfam are appealing for international help. Saying this time they refuse to wait until it’s too late and the world is forced to act. They want intervention now.

Later we trekked across the rough desert Souweba and her mother had come from. Unforgiving, fiercely hot, barren. We reached a Tuareg village that has stood on one of the dust tracks for over 150 years.

On our arrival the village chief Assoumana Mahatan said his people had survived for centuries selling firewood and grass to passing herdsmen and traders. Now the traders are gone and the desert has removed the grass and trees.

A century of tough living may be coming to an end, he warned, as people are forced to abandon the villages and head for towns and cities where they believe there is help. But for the Tuareg and little Souweba help may be little and much too late. Chief Mahatan telling us despite their fiercely proud struggle for existence over centuries in Africa, they need help and need it now.