Socialist International calls on international community to do more to assist Niger and West Africa to overcome food crisis

26 July 2005

The Socialist International calls on the international community to do more to help Niger overcome the dramatic food shortages it faces following poor rains and infestation of locusts, and to stop the catastrophe spreading to other countries in West Africa.

The International expresses its solidarity with and full support for its member party in Niger, the Party for Democracy and Socialism of Niger, PNDS, and its leader, former Prime Minister Mahamadou Issoufou. The International has shared the PNDS' repeated calls for the government to face the reality of the crisis the country is suffering and to ensure the supply of food assistance commensurate with the scale of the disaster.

With United Nations World Food Programme estimates of 3.6 million highly vulnerable people in Niger due to the lack of crops - which includes 1.2 million people threatened by famine and 150,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition - and the food crisis endangering lives in other countries in West Africa, including Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, it is vital that essential international aid is made immediately available in order to halt the famine and also to give the population the strength to work in the fields for the next harvest, so breaking the cycle of food shortage.

While the International welcomes the decision of the G8 nations to cancel the country's debts, Niger also requires assistance to improve and modernise its agricultural methods, as around 82 per cent of the population rely on agriculture and livestock farming, in a country where only 15 per cent of the land is suitable for arable crops. Furthermore, lessons must be learnt from this catastrophe with better mechanisms being adopted by the international community to come to the aid of a country in the future when early warnings are given, so such severe crises are avoided.