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Niger: Plan's response to the Sahel food crisis continues as refugees flood over borders

4 May 2012: Plan’s response to the Sahel food and refugee crisis is continuing as political instability in Mali sends a surge of refugees into neighbouring countries.

Almost 200,000 Malian refugees have now sought shelter over the borders, some with herd animals, causing additional pressure on already poor communities’ food supplies, pastures and infrastructure.

Emergency aid

The organisation is distributing free food to targeted groups in villages and schools, filling up 25 cereal banks and offering nutritional advice to communities. It is also providing food support, cereal grains, vegetables, mosquito nets and blankets to villagers and refugees.

More than 3,000 refugees had arrived in April in the village of Goudel, 5 kilometres from the Malian border and a place normally inhabited by 850 people. Village chief Ashek Hammed says the increase in numbers means the food shortage is desperate – but local tradition means all newcomers will be fed.

“If you have a stranger who stays with you, you have to share your meals with him,” explains Hammed. “Consequently there is pressure because the food shortage is more pronounced. I’m very worried about the future. Not because of the actual situation, but because every day, people keep on coming.”

Malnourished children

Every day, refugees who have walked for 10 to 15 days arrive in Goudel. One hundred percent of the children are malnourished, and many have illnesses such as whooping cough. Refugee Azahara Naziou came across the Malian border in April and is now living in a tent with 12 members of her family.

“I left my village because I was frightened. Bandits came with guns and stole many of our things, so we decided to run away. I came on foot with my children. Since we came here, we have been supported with food.  So I have been eating millet, beans and rice. We have been assisted with food, with blankets, with containers to carry water and with tents.”

Plan has furnished the school with extra blackboards, seating mats and teaching guides to accommodate greater numbers. Teacher Adouramane Oumarou says one entire class is made up of refugee children, who have never been to school before.

“Before the arrival of the refugees, we had 134 pupils; now we have taken in 117 refugee children. We wish that the school continues to do well, above all with the support of our partner Plan Niger.”

Note to editors:

  • Founded over 70 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 50 developing countries across Africa (including 12 in West Africa), Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.
  • The organisation works with more than 58,000 communities, covering a population of 56 million children
  • Across the Sahel, millions of people were already vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition because of repeated poor harvests. Recent political instability and violence has only increased the risk. Plan has been working with partners to develop a coordinated response to the food crisis in Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon, Mali and Senegal.
  • For many years, Plan has developed programmes to raise the levels of food security and independence for poor families. With education, training, and savings to boost livelihoods, families have become more resilient. This crisis is extreme, immediate assistance is needed to prevent long-term damage to the economic stability and needless deaths.
  • Poor children under 5 are particularly vulnerable to the effects of severe acute malnutrition which include death and long-term physical, mental and emotional developmental disabilities. Plan’s emergency response is developed in consultation with and focuses upon children, pregnant and/or lactating women to improve their immediate and long-term nutrition and food security.

Media enquiries:
For media enquiries, high res images, video, audio, case studies and interviews with experts on the Sahel, contact:

Jane Labous, press officer for East and West Africa regions, Plan International Headquarters (UK) jane.labous@plan-international.org