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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Niger way of life 'under threat'
Dead animal in Niger
The nomads drive their animals hundreds of miles to find food
Niger's nomadic groups are facing extreme hardship as a result of the food crisis, says a report by international charity Oxfam.

Nomads surveyed by the charity said that up to 70% of their livestock had died because of a lack of fodder.

Livestock are essential to the nomadic way of life and "targeted assistance" will be needed to help them, it says.

Nomads such as the Tuareg and Fulani make up about 20% of Niger's 12.9 million population.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme has increased its appeal in neighbouring Mali to include an additional 175,000 children in urgent need of food aid.

It is now asking for $13.6m, up from $7.4m, until the end of the year.

Both countries were badly hit by poor rains and locust invasions last year and are among the world's poorest countries.

"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," said Natasha Kofoworola Quist, Oxfam's Regional Director for West Africa.

"Twelve centuries of nomadic culture are threatened with extinction if these people do not get long-term help to rebuild their livelihoods," she added.

Rebuild herds

The shortage of fodder in Niger this year is estimated at nearly five million tonnes, while other neighbouring countries including Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania are also affected.

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
Natasha Kofoworola Quist, Oxfam's regional director for West Africa

Two-thirds of this shortage is attributed to drought and one-third to locusts eating the grass.

Although food aid is starting to arrive in Niger and be distributed, it is not enough. The UN is still asking for $50m to get Niger through to October's harvest.

Some 32,000 children could die without urgent help, aid agencies say, while some 2.5m people need food aid.

This increase in food stocks will provide temporary relief for the nomads but must be followed up with help rebuilding their herds, says the charity.

"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," said Ms Kofoworola Quist.

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