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Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Monday, 26 March 2012 09:05 UK

Niger crisis 'can be completely avoided'

Aid agencies are calling for urgent action to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Niger as they struggle to fund their efforts in the country in the face of drought and crop failure.

The BBC's Andrew Harding said that the crisis is down to a combination of factors including failing harvests, growing conflict, price rises and endemic poverty.

He said that hospitals in the region are already seeing severely malnourished children and there are expectations that figures could rise to 400,000.

He said the "encouraging news" is that there is a new democratic government in Niger who have acknowledged the problem but they lack the funds to prepare for summer months.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, has just returned from Niger, and told the Today programme's Justin Webb that this is a crisis that "can be completely avoided" because "there is a window of opportunity to get the aid in."

He also criticised countries like Japan, Italy and the United States, who he said were acting too slowly and "should be doing more".

"There is still time to prevent this from getting really bad."

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