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Questions over delayed response to Niger fami -

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Questions over delayed response to Niger famine

AM - Saturday, 23 July , 2005 08:12:52

Reporter: Zoe Daniel

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The United Nations still has only about a third of the money it needs to feed
millions of starving people in famine-stricken Niger, amid warnings that 150,000 children will soon
die without food aid.

Aid agencies have been calling for aid in Niger for months, but it's taken the pictures filmed by a
BBC news crew to get world's attention.

Questions are now being asked about the reasons for the delay, as fears grow for other
famine-stricken communities in Mali, Mauritania and Chad.

Our Africa Correspondent Zoe Daniel reports.

ZOE DANIEL: It was last November when a plague of locusts and drought sparked warnings that the
poor, desert nation of Niger would soon face famine, but the world took no notice. Initial appeals
by the UN for money for food yielded not one response.

It's taken this week's BBC pictures of malnourished babies and desperate people fighting for food
and medicine, to get a reaction.

(sound of fighting over food)

The UN World Food Program needs only about $40 million to provide effective aid in Niger, but even
dramatic footage of starving children has led to only a third of that being pledged.

This weekend, French NGO, Réunir ,is airlifting oil, sugar and millet to Southern Niger, but with
1.2 million people in desperate, immediate need of food, it's not enough.

Two months ago, UN Humanitarian Affairs chief Jan Egeland called Niger the world's number one
forgotten and neglected emergency. Now for many, he says, it's too late.

JAN EGELAND: Niger is the example of the imbalances in world generosity, and only now when children
are dying in the middle of July do we get assistance.

ZOE DANIEL: One-hundred-and-fifty-thousand children will soon die in Niger if more food is not
provided.

UNICEF Niger spokesman Abdul Karimo Adjibadi says they'll cost a lot more to save now, than if the
world had responded earlier.

ABDUL KARIMO ADJIBADI: The international community is now trying to respond quickly to what we
need, but we have to pay ten times the amount we need to do the same thing.

ZOE DANIEL: But Niger is not the only place in the region where starvation is a reality. It just
happens to be the place where the film crew has been.

Kate Pattison from Oxfam says the world must take action in neighbouring Mali and Mauritania to
prevent the same thing happening there.

KATE PATTISON: This isn't just about Niger, this is about Mali, this is about Mauritania. The food
crisis is across the whole of the Sahel Region. Niger is the worst affected country at the moment,
but Oxfam has had programs in Mali and Mauritania where we've been working to try and prevent the
situation there getting to crisis point.

ZOE DANIEL: It's said that about 2.5 million people are facing starvation in Niger, but across the
region, five million people need food.

This is Zoe Daniel reporting for Saturday AM.