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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 July 2005, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Aid funds finally flow for Niger
A severely undernourished child is fed at a MSF centre in Maradi, Niger
Images of starving children in Niger have shocked the world
The UN says donations of food and funding to help the 2.5 million people facing a food crisis in Niger are finally beginning to arrive.

The UN relief chief says graphic images of starving children have shocked the international community into response.

He said more funds had been received for Niger in the last ten days than over the last ten months.

However, the body has still only received a fifth of the total $30.7m (17.6m) it has appealed for.

A further $10m has been pledged.

Unheeded warnings

"Over the last few days the world has finally woken up, but it took graphic images of dying children for this to happen," said Jan Egeland, the UN head of humanitarian relief.

Landlocked Niger is one of the world's two poorest countries and it rarely grows enough food to feed its population.

NIGER IN FACTS AND FIGURES
Landlocked country in West Africa
One of poorest nations in world
Population of 11.5m
60% of population live on $1 a day
50% of population under 15
82% of population depend on subsistence farming
Source: UNDP

He said the world had been warned that Niger was fast-developing into one of the world's most uncontrollable humanitarian crises.

Thousands of children had already died after a locust invasion and prolonged drought worsened deep poverty.

But appeals made in November, March and May had gone unheeded, he said.

Aid workers in Niger say that up to a quarter of the country's almost 12 million people now need food aid.

Many are stripping trees of leaves because they have so little to eat. On the ground, a plane carrying 16 tons of food arrived on Friday but the BBC's Hilary Andersson, in southern Niger, says that this a drop in ocean as at least 23,000 tons are needed.

Another airlift is expected over the weekend, containing 40 tons of millet and 28 tons of oil, says the UN's World Food Programme.

The UK's minister of international development has proposed that an international humanitarian fund should be set up so that the UN can intervene more quickly.




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