March 10, 2010 / 1:00 PM / 9 years ago

Niger calls for $123 million in food aid

NIAMEY, March 10 (Reuters) - Niger needs $123 million in international aid to combat the risk of food shortages this year, the northwest African country’s prime minister said on Wednesday.

Niger’s military leadership, which seized power in the uranium-exporting nation in a coup last month, has made a break from the policy of deposed President Mamadou Tandja by publicly addressing the risk of famine, a taboo subject under Tandja.

The international community is pressing Niger, which appointed a largely civilian transitional government last week, to organise elections, but humanitarians warn that food shortages could create even more instability and derail that process.

“Niger needs huge international support to deal with the situation,” Prime Minister Mahamodou Danda said on Wednesday.

“I’d like to launch an appeal to help the efforts made by Niger to address famine, and to arrive at sustainable self-sufficiency in food,” he said.

The total cost would be 89 billion CFA francs ($185 million), of which almost 30 billion francs was already available, he said.

Since the February putsch, Niger’s military rulers have accepted United Nations estimates that at least 200,000 children face severe acute malnutrition, a condition that requires hospital treatment.

Moderate to severe food insecurity — a spectrum that runs from foregoing meals to malnutrition — could affect almost 8 million people, or around 60 percent of Niger’s population, Danda said.

For an ANALYSIS on the military junta’s food policy, click on [ID:nLDE6201KE].

Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Giles Elgood

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