The Irish Red Cross (IRC) today stepped up its Niger Hunger Appeal as fighting in Mali continues to force tens of thousands of people over the border into Niger. As the situation worsens in the Niger and the Sahel, the IRC is appealing for donations so that it can assist the swollen population of Niger and thereby help forestall a major humanitarian crisis.
"People in Mali and Niger are facing a twofold crisis: the food insecurity that has afflicted the entire region, and the fighting in the north of Mali that is driving massive displacement," said Colm Byrne, Head of the IRC's International Department.
The armed confrontations that have occurred in northern Mali in recent weeks have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in utter destitution and to seek refuge. Those who have fled to Niger are concentrated in the northern Tillabéry region, one of the areas hardest hit by the food crisis and the scene of recent inter-community violence.
The fighting in northern Mali is further straining a part of the Sahel already hard hit by a lack of rainfall and by recurrent food crises. "The shortfall in agricultural production and the lack of feed for the livestock are affecting countless families of farmers and herders in Mali and Niger," said Byrne. "Some of them were never able to recover from the effects of the crisis of two years ago. Their situation is particularly difficult."
On top of the influx of people from Mali, Niger is already struggling with migrants returning from Libya. Byrne said “It is estimated that tens of thousands of migrants have recently returned from working in the Middle East”.
“The people 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 Niger as a whole and on families who were already struggling to find food.”
The IRC is responding in Niger 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.
In addition to emergency actions taking place in Niger, the IRC conducts longer-term activities in the country, including helping communities strengthen their ability to grow and store crops, health education, improving water and sanitation, distributing seeds, improved irrigation techniques, soil management and tree planting will help communities plant more robust and sustainable crops.
To donate to the Irish Red Cross ‘Niger Hunger Appeal’ please visit www.redcross.ie or call 1850 50 70 70.
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