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Niger: Food Insecurity Crisis - Emergency Appeal No. MDRNE026 - Operational Strategy

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Glide №: OT-2022-000263-NER

IFRC Secretariat Funding requirement: CHF 3 million
Federation-wide funding requirement: CHF 5 million

DESCRIPTION OF THE EVENT

Niger is currently affected by the worst food security crisis of this decade, with 4.4 million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. This crisis is in the context of continued deteriorating security in the Sahel region, which further aggravates the socio-economic vulnerabilities of the population. In line with the IFRC’s Pan-African Initiative “Zero Hunger,” the IFRC is presenting below the Operational Strategy to implement its Food Insecurity Crisis Emergency Appeal to support the Red Cross Society of Niger (RCSN) mobilising resources to scale-up its humanitarian assistance in the country’s affected regions.

In Niger, more than four million households are facing the devastating effects of food insecurity caused by consecutive failed rainy seasons and decades of increasing desertification of the Sahel. Men, women, and children have no adequate access to food, and are exposed to several threats affecting their well-being. These threats are natural hazards (climate, droughts, and wildfires), epidemics (measles, malaria, meningitis, and cholera) and insecurity, leading to population movements and competition over resources. The severe food insecurity situation is confirmed by the Cadre Harmonisé (IPC) findings, which reported that between 2.5 and 3.3 million people are currently food insecure countrywide (Phase 3 to 5 as per the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification – IPC), and that between 3.6 and 4.4 million people will be food insecure in the June – August 2022 period due to a delayed 2022 rainy season and irregular distribution of rainfall, long periods of drought, and high risks of flooding that can lead to losses in crops, loss of property, and animal and human lives in exposed localities. The pastoral season in Niger is taking place early in the year because of difficulties in livestock feeding, watering conditions and fodder deficits. Herd movements are also disrupted due to the security situation. Consequently, livestock is concentrated in secure areas which leads to risks of conflict between farmers and the emergence of animal diseases.

Joint analysis of food security and the livelihood situation in the Sahel and West Africa sub-regions is conducted every six months by governments and stakeholders, including the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. There was a decline of 39% in cereal production in the 2021-2022 cropping seasons, which is currently recording a gross deficit of two million tons across all regions in Niger. Agricultural markets are being disrupted due to the failed agricultural season, closure of borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic and insecurity. This has inevitably led to an increase in inflation and a rise in prices of main food staples and livestock, in some cases, by more than 40% compared to the past five-year average for food staples. The impact of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has further exacerbated inflation and price increases for agricultural products, especially wheat, rice, and fertilisers.

The population of Niger has been facing challenges in nutrition due to the lack of uptake of essential nutrients and inadequate nutritional practices. According to the Niger government, a total of 2.3 million people need curative or preventive nutritional support while there are 457,200 children under the age of five suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Due to insecurity in Niger, many health centres in rural areas have either closed, had their services disrupted, or lack access to medicines. This situation is set to further deteriorate during the lean season. Only 56% of the population has access to a safe source of drinking water, 13% has access to basic sanitation services, while open defecation is practiced by more than 71%. These sanitary conditions are conducive to the development of diseases which will have high negative impacts on the nutritional situation of the population.

Without decisive action, there will be a steady increase in food insecurity, malnutrition levels, and related opportunistic diseases, and increased exposure to epidemics. The number of people living in food insecurity will increase as more farmers lose their crops and livestock. As an example, the available production of all cereals (millet, sorghum, maize, fonio and rice) is 2,946,231 tons against consumption needs of the population for all these crops, which is estimated at 4,950,711 tons. Cases of diseases and epidemics like malaria, measles, and meningitis will increase as people experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition have weakened immune systems, are more vulnerable to infections and suffer from severe symptoms leading to possible deaths.

In response to this situation, the Government of Niger launched its “Plan de soutien aux populations vulnérables” (Support plan for vulnerable populations) which targets severely food insecure populations with a primary objective of contributing to the sustainable resilience of populations and focusing on the protection of mothers to guarantee their role in the well-being of households. It was paramount to the RCSN, as a leading humanitarian and highly respected government partner, to immediately engage in this response, and this was strongly recommended by the IFRC in view of the many years of experience accumulated since the Cash Distribution activities in the Diffa region in 2017 followed by Early Action support by the IFRC.