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NZ help for famine victims in Niger

8 June 2005

NZ help for famine victims in Niger

World Vision NZ has committed $220,000 to the aid of drought and famine-stricken Niger where 3.6 million Nigeriens are in critical need.

World Vision workers in Niger report 800,000 malnourished children under five are in danger of starvation in what Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, describes as "the number one forgotten and neglected emergency in the world."

Olivier Saugy, World Vision Niger's Operations Director says a recent study revealed a high mortality rate and a level of malnutrition usually found among children in war-torn countries such as Sudan. Some 13.4% of children are acutely malnourished and 2.5% severely malnourished.

"Children already weakened by malnutrition are at considerable risk of dying from malaria as the rainy season approaches," Saugy says.

"We're concerned about our sponsored children in the Goulbi N'Kaba area, in Maradi, the worst-hit region in Niger," says Helen Green, World Vision NZ's CEO. "We have reports that there is severe malnutrition amongst children and we are distributing emergency food in the area, but we need more funding for this. These people live at subsistence level normally, but the drought is quite drastic and the worst is yet to come during the "lean season" of July, August and September, before the next harvest."

Mrs Green says 900 metric tonnes of food has been distributed to cereal banks in the drought-affected zones, but most of it has already been eaten. "An estimated 230,000 metric tonnes of food is needed and World Vision has signed a contract with WFP to distribute 1,480 tonnes."

Some of World Vision NZ's donation comes from this year's 40 Hour Famine funds, raised to help children in crisis, and $80,000 is contributed from the New Zealand Government's overseas aid contribution to NGOs.

Note: Niger: Pop 12 million. 176th out of 177 countries, according to the UNDP Human Development Index.

ENDS

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