ANALYSIS-Niger junta's hunger alarm is break with past

Tue Mar 2, 2010 12:18pm GMT

* Aid workers hoping for more open approach to food crisis

* Junta acknowledges extent of hunger threat

* Famine would threaten transition

By David Lewis

NIAMEY, March 2 (Reuters) - An acknowledgement by Niger's new military leader that millions face hunger is a policy volte-face for the West African state that may help it avert famine and even worse instability.

Major Salou Djibo, who ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a coup on Feb. 18, has said that all means would be available to deal with a crisis that aid workers warn will leave millions hungry and over 200,000 children with severe acute malnutrition.

The alarm contrasted with Tandja's handling of previous crises. In 2005 he denied people were hungry until media attention made the position untenable.

Aid workers say Niger is now better prepared but they still complain of facing obstacles in trying to tackle the situation in the desert state, one of the world's poorest despite winning billions of dollars of investment in its uranium and oil wealth.   Continued...

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