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Lack of funds for West Africa Food Crisis Forces UN to Make Agonizing Decision

WFP to prioritize children under age of two – 60% of people in dire need of aid may not receive adequate help


The World Food Program (WFP) in Niger, the country worst-hit
by the West Africa food crisis, has been forced to make an "agonizing"
decision to abandon plans to provide emergency food to families with
children over the age of two because of a huge funding shortfall, says
international agency Oxfam.

Only families with children under the age of two will receive food
over the coming weeks and they will still only receive 50 kilograms of
cereal, half the amount an average family of seven needs each month. The
remaining 60 percent of the affected population will be left to depend
on a woefully under-resourced government and aid groups. This news comes
at the peak of the food crisis when there is still almost two months to
go before the next harvest.

Oxfam, who works with the UN to provide food to families in Niger,
has repeatedly called for donors to increase their funding to WFP and
other aid agencies - but still not enough is being done, it says.

Raphael Sindaye, Oxfam Deputy Regional Director in West Africa said:

"No humanitarian agency should be forced into such an impossible position,
especially one backed by the entire international community. WFP is
being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to direct its limited
resources only to families with children under two because it lacks the
cash it needs to do the job."

"Every day is a battle to find food"

Across the Sahel belt of West Africa drought and erratic rains have
caused meager harvests and severe water shortages, forcing Niger, Mali
and Chad to depend largely on international aid. More than 10 million
people are affected by the crisis, seven million of those in Niger where
hundreds of thousands of children face starvation.

Maria Ali, 50, and mother of 10 in a village near Zinder, Niger told Oxfam:

"We have no crops and no land of our own, and now we
are very hungry. It's the hardest year I can remember. No one here has
received any help. There is nothing we can do, we just pray that God
will help us. We urge anyone, the government, the international
organizations, to come to our aid. Every day is a battle to find food
for my children."

Fatima Husseini, 50, and mother of nine said:

"We have not received any help here, though I know
other places have received something. But we are not jealous because we
know that everybody needs aid. I urge anybody to come to help us."

The WFP recently announced a much-needed scale up of its operations
to reach almost eight million people in Niger with emergency food but
limited resources and time have forced the agency to drastically scale
back these plans by halting intended distributions to one million people
with children over two. WFP is now prioritizing only 700,000 children
under the age of two and their families.

7.9 million people affected in Niger

Sindaye said: "This is an appalling situation. We have known about
this crisis for months and yet more than a million people in Niger will
continue to starve over the coming weeks and perhaps months."

Oxfam said missing funds are urgently needed to buy essential trucks,
open more storage space and ensure food actually reaches communities.
The WFP has 42,000 tons of food available, but needs approximately
double this to reach the full 7.9 million affected people in Niger.

Oxfam is working with partner organizations in some of the
worst-affected areas of Niger, Chad and Mali providing cash vouchers,
clean water and vaccinating livestock. The agency is also distributing
food provided by WFP with its local partners.

Read more

Donate now to Oxfam's humanitarian work in West Africa

Photo gallery: Food crisis in Niger

Read the blog by Kirsty Hughes, Oxfam GB's Head of policy and advocacy: Assessing the situation in Niger, part 1 and part 2

More information: West Africa Food Crisis

Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.