Joint US/UN News Release/NIAMEY- The combined effects of conflict, climate shocks, and high food prices continues to drive hunger up and push basic meals out of the reach of millions in Niger, demanding immediate and collective action, United States Ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain told journalists at the end of their week-long, U.S.- sponsored field visit to Zinder, Dosso and Tillaberi regions. Following an unprecedented food crisis in 2022, Niger continues to face high levels of food insecurity, with two million people having experienced irregular access to safe and nutritious food over the last quarter of 2022, according to the November Cadre Harmonisé food security analysis. The situation is likely to worsen during the upcoming lean season of June to August 2023, potentially affecting 2.9 million women, men and children, or 11 percent of the total population, unless urgent action is taken.
Addressing a press briefing from Rome, Ambassador McCain said, "My appeal to the international community today is, do not give up on Niger. One thing is sure - when we come together as one world, we can save lives."
"Sufficient and predictable funding is urgently needed to help the Government of Niger and partners address the root causes of hunger" McCain stressed. "It can also help reduce humanitarian needs over time and make long lasting changes in the lives of women, men and children affected by the food crisis."
The United States continues to be the largest contributor to the United Nations agencies in Rome, assisting them in leading international efforts to end hunger. In Niger, the United States alone provided US$65 million to WFP, over US$2 million to FAO, and US$53 million to IFAD for emergency food assistance, sustainable agricultural development, resilience building, and food safety standards in 2022.
"The United States stepped up to the plate with a record contribution of nearly US$8 billion total to all three agencies last year," noted Ambassador McCain. "While our support will continue, we also need other donors to step up, and the private sector to contribute funds and technology." she added.
With US and other governments funding, the Rome-based UN agencies have come together, implementing complementary programmes in support of the Nigerien Government's development objectives, and promoting sustainable food security solutions.
The week-long, U.S.-sponsored media tour took reporters deep into the rural areas to see first-hand how projects and programmes implemented by the UN food and agriculture agencies - FAO, IFAD, and WFP - with U.S. funding are helping the Government of Niger to alleviate hunger, build resilient communities, and lift people out of poverty.
WFP provides populations facing crises with the emergency food and nutrition assistance needed to survive while simultaneously expanding resilience activities to support sustainable food security solutions in Niger. In 2022, WFP assisted 4.2 million people, of which 1.8 million people benefitted from its integrated multisectoral resilience programme in 2,000 villages allowing to restore 46,000 ha of land amongst other natural resources management, nutrition, education and market interventions. The latter has proven effective in reducing the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance in times of crisis and combatting the impacts of climate change, conflict and high prices, and must be scaled up.
Since 1980, IFAD has supported 15 programmes and projects in Niger, investing US$ 435.77 million and directly benefiting more than 1.2 million rural households. IFAD works to improve the capabilities of small-scale rural producers, particularly those from the most marginalized socioeconomic groups, and to increase their capacity to adapt to change. Projects funded by IFAD have helped to build resilience in households and communities. Interventions in rainfed and irrigated crop production, seed quality and input supply have increased yields, reduced climate-related risks, and contributed to improved food and nutrition security as well as rural household incomes.
FAO reached 1.7 million people in Niger with livelihood assistance by 2022. This included the distribution of 1,200 tonnes of seeds, as well as tools and training to ensure that families had a good harvest. FAO transferred US$ 504, 900 to vulnerable families through cash-based interventions, allowing for the rehabilitation of 1,200 km of firewalls and 1,400 hectares of cropland. Despite worsening levels of food insecurity in 2022 due to drought and flood impacts, most FAO-assisted beneficiaries had improved food security, nutrition, and self-sufficiency.