Expensive imports and aid remain out of reach for 12 million people facing country’s worst food crisis in years
The billboard propped up at the side of the dusty road offers what the land it stands on cannot provide : a sack of grain, the top prize in an advertising campaign sponsored by a mobile phone company. Here in Niger, lottery winners win food. And looking beyond the signs along the sweltering route to Tillabéri– a region 18.5 miles (30km) from the capital, Niamey, on a road which stretches north into the Sahara desert and Timbuktu – it is not hard to see why. Fields of stunted millet stand baking in the 35C heat, a land pocked by dry river beds, and the occasional carcass of a starving cow. This is a picture of hunger – one that is raising increasing concerns from international aid bodies and humanitarian organisations.
Nearly 12 million people in Niger – about 80% of the population – are now affected by food insecurity, a status that indicates they have as few as 10 days’ food supplies remaining with all other income-generating activities exhausted.