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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July 2005, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Niger neighbours also face hunger
Mother and baby in Niger feeding centre
The food crisis had been predicted for almost a year
The food crisis in Niger also threatens three other countries in the region - Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, the United Nations has warned.

At least 2.5m people in the three countries need food aid and like Niger they were hit by drought and a plague of locusts last year.

Niger's president is due to visit the worst hit south of his country, where aid is now beginning to arrive.

The UN's food agency says it expects to feed 250,000 people within a few days.


The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that other countries in the Sahara region were also badly hit.

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

In neighbouring Mali, some 1.1 million people will need food aid this year.

About 5,000 children in the north are suffering from acute malnutrition, and infant mortality in some areas has reached record levels, the UN says.

In northern Burkina Faso, some 500,000 people are in need of food aid and people are leaving their homes in search of food.


In southern Niger, the UN estimates it will be able to feed 1.2m people by September, but that only represents a third of those in need of food.

Malnourished child
The food crisis had been predicted for almost a year

The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Niger says that with rains now in full flow in the south of the country, disease is spreading and aid workers predict the crisis will escalate over the next few weeks.

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

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said that the international community has put more money into the Niger relief effort over the past 10 days than it had during the previous 10 months.

See the worsening situation in the countries neighbouring Niger

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