Magazine article The Crisis

Q&A: Niger's Famine Crisis Persists

Magazine article The Crisis

Q&A: Niger's Famine Crisis Persists

Article excerpt

The West African country of Niger is currently experiencing one of the worst famines in history. More than three million of the country's 12 million people are facing a food shortage. For many, it seems like de ja vu.

In 1970, millions of people died from a devastating drought in Niger. The crisis was the impetus for the establishment of the nonprofit group, Africare, the oldest and largest African American organization dedicated to providing aid to Africa. Now, 35 years later, the country is facing similar conditions.

Though the international community has responded to the famine in Niger with food, supplies and resources, the wounds of the drought are far deeper than the short-term humanitarian aid can heal. The country's environmental challenges, political infrastructure and developmental issues still plague the nation.

On a recent visit to the United States to celebrate the work of Africare, the group's Niger representative, AI-Hassana ldriss Outmair saf down with The Crisis to discuss the famine.

What is the state of Niger?

The main problem of Niger is its environment. The drought is recurrent. Whenever there is a shortage of rainfall, natural disaster and locust invasion, the little harvest that people have is destroyed. [This] leaves people in despair.

Why wasn't there an earlier plea from the Niger government for help?

They appealed on time, and the assistance came, but there was a big delay. The government has a plan, but what is lacking are the means - there is no oil, the country relies on agricultural production. …

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