Niger Facing a Harsh Phase of Famine

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 29, 2005 ( Famine victims in Niger are facing an especially critical phrase, warn Caritas officials.

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Caritas-Niger officials said that 2 million to 3.5 million people, a quarter of the population, face extreme hardship between now and the next harvest, in October.

According to the U.N. Development Program, there are an estimated 32,000 children in Niger in a state of severe malnutrition; 160,000 in a moderate state of malnutrition; and more than 260,000 pregnant or nursing mothers affected in some way by this problem.

Given the critical situation, Caritas-Niger is directing its aid to groups at greatest risk: infants and pregnant and nursing women.

By Aug. 26, Caritas had distributed 1,030 tons of cereal in the Saharan nation to 507 population centers with an estimated 175,000 people. It also sent shipments of grain to 63 community cereal deposits.

Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations.

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