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800 000 people to need food aid in Niger

12 May 2013, 15:54

Niamey - Some 800,000 people will require food aid in Niger in the coming months despite a good harvest last year due to problems supplying cereals to markets, which have pushed up prices, and an influx of Malian refugees, the United Nations said.

The U.N. office for humanitarian coordination (OCHA) said they would need food from now until the start of the rainy season, which is usually in July, July and August.

It said the situation was critical in 13 regions surveyed by the government in March, where 84,000 people needed emergency food aid.

The agency cited problems with supplying food to markets in some areas, such as the northern mining regixon of Arlit and Tahoua in central Niger and Tillabery in the west, which had driven up cereals prices.

Recurrent shortages in recent years have forced pastoralists to sell livestock, including valuable young females normally kept for breeding, reducing their resistance to food shocks.

The presence of some 60,000 refugees from Mali - where a French-led international mission has battled Islamist rebels since January - has exacerbated the food shortages in Tillabery and Tahoua, OCHA has said.

In 2011, the landlocked desert nation was struck by a famine that afflicted nearly 6 million people - roughly one-third of its population - as a drought coincided with a return of emigrants from conflict-stricken Libya and Ivory Coast.

Niger appealed to international donors for $354 million in February to tackle this year's food crisis, down from $490 million in 2012 - of which only two-thirds was received - OCHA said.

- Reuters

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