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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Another food crisis to hit Niger
Oxfam vouchers in Niger
Many in Niger have run out of money to buy food
The food situation in Niger is deteriorating once more, just a year after it was struck by a devastating drought, warn aid agencies.

Rains have begun late and many families borrowed so heavily last year they cannot ask for further credit from the traders they normally rely on.

The aid agency Oxfam says it has already seen families reduced to eating leaves from trees, just to get by.

The UN says the 1.5m people it feeds will more than double in a few weeks.

By September, 25% of Niger's 12m people will be receiving food aid, the World Food Programme predicts.

Oxfam's Lauren Gelfand, who has been travelling through the area, says she is concerned because the rainy season was poor and the next harvest is not expected for two months.

"There are people who have had to sow their seeds for a second time because there were no rains. There is definitely a danger that things could be bad this year," she said.

An extensive monitoring system is in place, and 900 feeding centres are in operation.

But BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says there is a real danger that many in Niger are becoming dependent on annual food distributions, as the desert claims more and more of the arid country.

Food emergencies in Africa have almost tripled in the last two decades and the developed world needs to review its approach to aid, says Oxfam.

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