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Oxfam: Niger crisis threatens normadic way of life

Oxfam: Nomadic way of life threatened by Niger food crisis

Nomads have been so badly hit by the Niger food crisis that their already fragile way of life is at risk, according to a new Oxfam assessment in southern Niger.

On average, nomads have lost 70 per cent of their animals in the current food crisis, according to the Oxfam survey covering 3,500 people in the Maradi region.

As a result, 40 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children in nomadic
communities are living on one meal or less a day. Almost one in ten families are surviving on a diet of mainly wild plants, leaves and grass.

"For Niger's nomads, the situation is desperate. To these people, losing your animals is like losing your life-savings. Without their animals, they have no means of survival. Twelve centuries of nomadic culture are threatened with extinction if these people do not get long-term help to rebuild their livelihoods," said Natasha Kofoworola Quist, Oxfam's Regional Director for West Africa.

The nomadic Tuareg and Fulani peoples, who travel hundreds of miles in search of pasture for their animals, make up about 20 per cent of Niger's population. The current food crisis may prove a critical blow for these communities, who are already struggling due to recurring food crises and shrinking pastureland.

The Oxfam assessment also shows that farming communities have been badly hit. Farmers have lost on average 65 per cent of their animals and 20 per cent of adults are living on one meal or less per day.

Food distribution has now started in Niger, but the UN appeal for the food crisis remains dangerously under-funded with $50 million still needed. Even if these funds are raised, food aid will only provide temporary relief to nomadic communities.

"$50 million is needed now from rich countries to help people through to the next harvest in October. But food aid alone will not solve this crisis. For nomads who have lost all or most of their animals, the harvest will make little difference. The emergency response must go hand in hand with sustained assistance for Niger's nomads," said Natasha Kofoworola Quist, Oxfam's Regional Director for West Africa.

Oxfam is working with AREN, a Nigerien association, to help nomadic communities in the Dakoro region. The programme will help 130,000 people. People work in communal fields or clean villages in exchange for vouchers, which can be traded for food at local markets. This week, Oxfam's program is being scaled up to assist families who have lost all their animals.

Editor's notes

Oxfam surveyed 295 households, approximately 3,500 people, in the Dakoro area of the Maradi region in southern Niger.

Eight million people in Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso are facing a major food crisis. 3.5 million people need immediate help in Niger, 2.2 million in Mali, 800,000 in Mauritania and 500,000 in Burkina Faso.

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