Over 2.6 million go hungry in Niger

2011-05-05 15:25
Niamey - Over 2.6 million people in Niger do not have enough to eat in the largely desert country which suffered one of its worst ever food crises in 2010 followed by a harsh drought, government said on Thursday.

According to a cabinet statement, the study showed 1 185 233 people were hit by severe food insecurity, and 1 435 537 by moderate food insecurity, making up 17% of the country's population of 15 million.

Those going hungry live mostly in the centre and west of the country, where the 2009 drought hit hardest, an agriculture ministry official told AFP.

"People in these areas have almost exhausted their food supplies, don't eat their fill, and have one meal a day instead of three," he said.

Government has promised to provide farmers with seeds and other inputs.

The first rains this year are expected in late May, and their arrival is key to the survival of 80% of the population who depend on traditional agriculture.

Disaster was averted during the 2010 food crisis due to massive aid from the international community.

Since then heavy rains allowed grain production to reach 5.5 million tons, up from 1.5 million tons the previous year and a 20-year record, according to official statistics.

The Sahel country, which is two-thirds desert, has faced a food crisis about every five years in the last half-century.

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