The United States is sending to Niger more than two-hundred tons of a high-energy food supplement to be used to save more than thirty-thousand children who face imminent death from starvation. The emergency shipment will bring the total amount of U.S. food assistance to Niger in 2005 to more than thirteen-million dollars.
Niger, the world's second poorest country, is suffering from a drought and the worst invasion of locusts in fifteen years. The food crisis is also affecting, to varying degrees, Niger's neighbors: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal.
According to news reports, nearly one million children in Niger face starvation. They are among the estimated one-third of the country's twelve-million citizens who cannot afford to purchase what food may be available in the market place. Some farmers have been forced to sell their livestock in order to buy food. The price of cereal grains in Niger has increased by more than seventy-five percent.
While there has been rainfall recently in Niger, the problem of starvation remains serious. Ed Fox is assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He says that the need for food assistance in Niger will continue to be urgent for at least the next two months:
"Indications are that the rains earlier this year were quite adequate. There is hope that the harvest this year will be at least at the same levels of the last five years and perhaps even in a much larger amount. So we are hoping that will indicate that the most desperate time frame will be between now and September at some point, when they begin to bring in the harvest in the country, and that will alleviate a lot of the underlying problems."
Andrew Natsios is U.S. A-I-D's administrator. He says, "Alongside partners like UNICEF, the United States government is working to save lives among some of the poorest and most chronically food insecure people in Africa."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.