Millions face death in Niger
LONDON: The aid agency Oxfam says about 3.6 million people face starvation in the West African nation of Niger unless the international community responds urgently to the food crisis there.
Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, was devastated by an invasion of locusts that ate everything green last year, and was then hit by a drought that lasted until earlier this month.
The U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, said this week that 2.5 million people in Niger were in desperate need of food, after the world community ignored U.N. appeals for urgent aid.
Oxfam estimated that almost one million children were at risk from food shortages.
"The situation is desperate. Even the limited food that is available has soared in price, rendering it unaffordable for most families, and there is no hope of any harvest for at least three months," said Natasha Kafoworola Quist, an Oxfam spokeswoman.
"Families are feeding their children grass and leaves from the trees to keep them alive."
Oxfam said U.N. appeals for aid were "dangerously" underfunded, with only one third of the money needed from donors being pledged.
The United Nations' first appeal for assistance for Niger in November got almost no response. Another appeal for $A21.2 million in March returned about $A1.33 million.
The latest appeal on May 25 for $A39.8 million has received about $A1.33 million.
The U.N. "needs money now. Every day that the world's richest countries look the other way, more people face starvation. They have to put their hands in their pockets before it's too late," according to Ms Quist.