Cablegate: Niger: Niger Disaster Response Resource Request

DE RUEHNM #0086/01 0330656
P 020656Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Niger: Niger Disaster Response Resource Request

Ref: a) 09 Niamey 0813, b) 09 Niamey 0862, c) 09 Niamey 0948, d) 09
Niamey 0964, e) Niamey 0032

1. (U) This is an action message - see para 13.

2. (SBU) Summary: After Embassy Niamey's Disaster Declaration on
January 14 (ref d), post requests urgent and serious consideration
of increasing response resources for Niger due to imminent food
insecurity. The newly released vulnerability assessment indicates
alarming levels of food insecurity throughout the country. The GON
proposed plan of response is aggressive but insufficient and will
challenge the international community to meet the minimal needs
proposed. The USG has responded early, but significant additional
needs are required. End summary.

Background of an Emerging Food Shortage
3. (SBU) This message requests urgent and serious consideration for
USG resources to respond to the currently unfolding food security
disaster in Niger. A review of reftels from October 09 through the
USG mission Declaration of Disaster on January 10 details the
evolution of this critical situation. USAID's Famine Early Warning
System (FEWS-NET) reported on January 4 that in Niger, major food
and non-food assistance is needed urgently to improve the food
security in affected cropping areas until the next harvest in
September 2010.

Results of Household Food Security Vulnerability Survey
--------------------------------------------- ----------
4. (SBU) The GON released the results of the National Household Food
Security Vulnerability Assessment to a donors group on January 25
and the NGOs on January 26. Summaries have already appeared on the
wire services and have been reported on the BBC and Radio France
International. The assessment depicts a very bleak assessment of
the national food security situation as of mid-December:

-- 66% of households reported a bad harvest;

-- The average food availability in the households in Niger is 2.8
months versus 5.4 months last year;

-- 400,300 households or 2.7 million people have less than 10 days'
stock of food. 20% of the population is therefore in a state of
severe food insecurity;

-- 5,100,000 or 38.2% are declared moderately food insecure;

-- Only 9.1% of the population is considered food secure as of

-- There is already a clear reduction in daily food intake by
reducing meal size or eliminating meals altogether;

-- Of the 24 million MT of dry material needed for forage for 2.7
million pastoralists, only 30% is available;

-- The regions with the greatest percent of severely food insecure
are Tahoua at 33.9%, Diffa at 32%, and Zinder at 22.3%; and

-- With respect to the 36 departments of Niger, severe vulnerability
ranges from 62.2% in Abalak to only 11 departments where the extent
of severe food insecurity is under 10%.

Mission Comment on Food Insecurity Realities
5. (SBU) Considering that the GON has shown every indication of
denial, concealment, or minimization of the severity of the food
security problem this year, the dissemination of this report is
quite a remarkable event. Although the assessment only examined
food availability, there is general consensus that the situation is
worse than that depicted in the report. Every indication is that
the harvest is as bad as or worse than that of 2004, which led to
the last crises in 2005. Embassy Niamey Food for Peace Officer
estimates that Niger probably is lacking the availability of
approximately 1 million metric tons of cereals needed to feed its
population an average of 600 grams a day (a little more than a 1
lb., 4 oz.). Migration is accelerating; according to UNICEF
partners, malnutrition rates are starting to climb. End mission

GON Plan of Response
6. (SBU) The GON Food Security Crises Unit has developed a plan of
response. The initial focus of the response is on 3.5 million
persons in the zones considered vulnerable. The GON reports $13.26
million and $3.46 million anticipated from the EU and Spain,

NIAMEY 00000086 002 OF 002

respectively, for a total of $16.72 million currently available for
response. This figure also includes cereal stocks of 105,910 MT.

Mission Comment on GON Plan of Response
7. (SBU) It is unclear where this estimate of 3.5 million requiring
assistance came from and which zones are declared vulnerable, and,
more importantly, which are not considered vulnerable because all
zones have identified vulnerable populations. Most of the GON
cereal stock was purchased inside of Niger, and hence does not
materially increase the national stock or reduce the production
deficit. Mission believes that the number requiring material
assistance is considerably higher and is closer to the 7 million
figure than that of 3.5 million. The 3.5 million in need was the
number used last year when the harvest was 2 million MT greater than
this year. End comment.

GON Cash for Work Projects
8. (SBU) The GON response is built around an approach of large-scale
cash for work projects to reach 30% of the vulnerable households
budgeted at $33.77 million; the replenishment and creation of 1,903
cereal banks to provide millet at a below-market price at a budgeted
cost of $63 million; and the sale of subsidized grain, food for crop
production, seed distribution, reconstitution of the national stock,
procurement of fodder, and nutritional support for malnourished
children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and other malnourished
persons. The total cost for all proposed interventions is estimated
to be $226 million, of which $165 million needs to resourced.

USG Response to Date
9. (SBU) To date, the USG has responded early and appropriately.
FFP has signed a transfer agreement with WFP for $12 million for
9,240 MT of mixed commodities to help meet the needs of 1.9 million
food insecure beneficiaries and allocated $3m for similar
commodities for partner NGOs. OFDA has committed $4.9 million to
disaster risk reduction activities in Niger.

Mission Comment on GON Assistance Requests
10. (SBU) Post believes that the GON Plan of Response represents the
GON's Declaration of Emergency and request for international
assistance. This is reflected in the actions and words of GON
officials from the Prime Minister on down. Post believes the GON
request to be extremely modest in face of the problem that is
outlined in the Vulnerability Assessment, reporting from FEWS-NET,
and our own and partner observations of the situation. Niger is
facing a crisis equal to or worse than that of 2004-2005;
specifically, if one were to estimate a current cereal production
deficit of one million MT from the national cereal requirement, this
would represent a loss to producers of an estimated $450 million,
with a significantly higher import cost.

11. (SBU) The buying power of half the Nigerian population is
markedly less at present, with wages between $1.00 and $2.00 per day
for those who can find work at all. There are considerable unknowns
involved, but it is clear that the people of Niger need a response
far in excess of that proposed and the current plan of the
collective international community to respond. WFP locally is
considering the possibility of adding another 710,000 beneficiaries
to the existing Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (PRRO) for
nutrition and general population support. This would add another
30,000 MT to the PRRO, which is not yet fully subscribed. Even this
is small given the evident need.

12. (SBU) Embassy Niamey does not intend to suggest targets for OFDA
and FFP. In response to the Ambassador's January 15 disaster
declaration, post hopes that OFDA can release Disaster Response
funds to address significant needs that are emanating from
widespread food insecurity in a situation that is possibly one of
the worst in the last 38 years. Likewise, we need to alert FFP that
planning for this response needs to immediate and bold. We urge
this in order to save lives and avoid a far more expensive response
later in the year that could require the presence of a DART and
airlift. End mission comment.

13. (SBU) Action requested: Embassy Niamey requests that USAID
continue to keep mission advised of issues and concerns as well the
evolving plan to respond.

14. (U) Thank you for assistance.


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