Two weeks today - it's Monday here in London - I
returned from Niger. Al Jazeera had begun carrying a series of reports
from the country which warned that the severe hunger in the country was
at risk of tipping into a full blown famine.
the more fertile south and saw the problems there, and we visited the
north - accompanied by an army patrol because of security issues - and
saw the real hardships for villagers across the region.
were warning us that things were as bad as they had ever been,
that this was much worse than the conditions that brought the terrible
famine of 2005.
The United Nation's World
Food Programme now officially backs what the people told us. They say
half the country's population, 7.3 million people - are in desperate
need of food.
The country has suffered over
the past two years with poor rains bringing harvests well below
expectations. Now the rainy season has arrived but that has brought
torrential rain to many parts of the country, killing at least 6 people,
washing away the homes of 67,000 and sweeping away crops. The rains
also destroyed the hopes of many that somehow this year will be better.
WFP has appealed for $213 million in emergency aid, but is 40 per cent
short of its target. One charity, Helen Keller International (HKI) has
accused the international community of failing to respond effectively to
continued appeals for help for Niger.
floods in Pakistan have dominated the world healdines, and with more
than 14 million people affected, that is right and understandable.
heard some people talk about "compassion fatigue" as if somehow the
people and the governments elsewhere in the world have a limited amount
of concern for their fellow man and can only feel sad and offer
financial help for one global disaster at a time.
2005, Niger lurched into famine quickly and thousands died. The world
said it didn't know the sitaution was so bad, so severe. This time, the
warnings have been there for some time. The threat to thousands is
real and imminent.
It simply cannot be ignored.