Returning migrants to the Sahel region of Africa from Libya, and other conflict zones in North Africa, are placing increasing stress on countries with already diminishing food reserves. This is just one of the disasters adding to the looming food crisis in Niger, the Irish Red Cross said today.
Colm Byrne, Irish Red Cross Head of the International Services, said today “It is estimated that tens of thousands of migrants have recently returned from working in the Middle East. Chad alone has received more than 80,000 people returning from Libya”.
This has a twofold affect said Byrne “The people who are returning would have previously been sending money home to their families. That income is now gone. The lack of income along with the swell in population caused by those returning puts a huge strain on families who were already struggling to find food.”
Red Cross reports show that, in Niger the smallest decreases in food production can have a drastic affect on households who have not yet recovered from the 2010 food crisis. Niger is a country prone to flooding and drought and as a result has regularly struggled to produce successful harvests.
Malnutrition rates in the region are generally high and particularly affect children. The Red Cross estimates that over one million children under the age of five are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition, up to one third of these children from Niger alone.
“During the 2004 drought in the Sahel, the UN calculated that 1 dollar could have been spent to prevent a child becoming malnourished, whereas it actually cost 80 dollars a day to treat a malnourished child” said Byrne.
“We have time to prevent another serious crisis; we must not sit back and let it happen. It is our humanitarian imperative to act now to prevent the needless suffering of millions”.
The Irish Red Cross is responding as part of an International Red Cross effort which aims to not only save lives but also protect livelihoods. This means providing emergency food for the most vulnerable and supporting health centres to detect and treat acutely malnourished children. But it also means helping communities maintain an income through a small business or farming and developing marshlands and waddis where they exist. These efforts build community resilience and minimise the impact of future droughts.
To donate to the Irish Red Cross ‘Niger Hunger Appeal’ visitwww.redcross.ie or call 1850 50 70 70
Photo: A child's arm is measured to screen for malnutrition. Source:IFRC