Caritas Confronts Starvation in Niger

Food Program Aids Areas Hit by Drought

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NIAMEY, Niger, MAY 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Caritas is mobilizing forces in Niger to respond to the serious effects of drought in several areas of the Muslim country.

The Caritas-Niger operation aims to guarantee 10,740 people, living in extremely precarious conditions, food and means of subsistence through a work-for-food program, Caritas reported today in a press statement.

The organization will distribute 580 tons of cereal and implement an agricultural plan to restore lands affected by the drought.

Caritas-Niger also intends to acquire 75 tons of improved seeds and 70 tons of forage for livestock.

Highest priority will be given to the recovery of seed capital and the development of alternative farming production processes that will enable families to diversify their sources of income.

The Caritas-Niger program of action is part of the package of measures announced by this African state to respond to the effects of starvation.

The country’s authorities have committed themselves to begin the urgent distribution of 78,000 tons of food, and to call for the mobilization of NGOs and institutions of bilateral cooperation present in the country.

Niger’s economy, based on farming activities, is extremely exposed to climactic fluctuations characteristic of the Sahel region.

Niger lives in a situation of permanent food alert, caused by lack of rain and periods of great drought, as well as by an invasion of locust at the end of last year that destroyed the annual agricultural production.

These problems have caused an acute food crisis, which is affecting livestock and increasing to an alarming degree the rate of human malnutrition, especially among women and children, as well as the massive displacement of 50% of the population.

Caritas-Niger has made an urgent appeal to Caritas donors worldwide, to contribute to a fundraising campaign with a target of $794,860 to finance the emergency, reported a press statement.

In Niger, out of a population of some 11 million, only 0.18% is Catholic. Muslims constitute 80% of the population, and the rest follow traditional beliefs.

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