NIAMEY — The government in Niger on Wednesday appealed for massive emergency aid to avert a food crisis that threatens more than half of the population of the arid west African country.
"To the national and international community, I want to launch an emergency appeal for massive support to the enormous efforts Niger is making to cope with famine," Prime Minister Mahamadou Danda told foreign aid agencies.
Some 58 percent of Niger's 15.2 million people face "severe or moderate" food shortages, said Danda who was appointed prime minister by a military junta that ousted president Mamadou Tandja last month.
The toppled government, which had turned food shortages into an almost taboo subject, early this year said just about 20 percent of the population (2.7 million people) were vulnerable.
The food deficit is due to crop failure brought about by erratic rains in this vast country.
Danda said his government wanted to focus its emergency action on areas where "vulnerable" households have no more than 10 days of food stocks. Next harvests are not expected before September.
He outlined a detailed disaster management plan involving promotional sales and free distribution of cereals.
A United Nations representative at the meeting, Kardjata Lo N'Diaye, pledged financial contribution and technical support.
The European Union's envoy to Niamey assured that Niger would have donor support.
In 2005, some 3.2 million people in Niger were hit by famine after their crops were ravaged by locusts and a drought. Mass starvation was avoided with the help of the international community.
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