Niger hit by 'double' disaster of drought, floods: Oxfam

24th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Aid agency Oxfam warned Tuesday of a "double disaster" for millions of people in Niger where heavy rains and flooding are compounding food shortages caused by a prolonged drought.

The United Nations says more than seven million people are facing starvation in Niger -- more than half the population -- following the drought, and Oxfam says the few crops that survived are now being destroyed by floods.

"It's a double disaster. Before the rains, people lacked food, now any small reserves of grain they had have been washed away by the water. Nothing remains," Ibrahim Mahaman, head of a flood-hit village, told the aid agency.

At last six people have died in the sub-Saharan country because of the heavy rains, which has pushed the Niger river to its highest level for more than 80 years and left nearly 70,000 people homeless, according to UN sources.

"Many crops and vegetables that would have provided crucial food to hungry families have been destroyed by floods," said Raphael Sindaye, Oxfam's deputy regional director in west Africa, in a statement issued in London.

"People who were praying for rains for their crops to grow have now lost everything."

He said Oxfam's aid operation was stretched "to the limit" as it tried to deal with "one of the worst food crises to hit the region in living memory".

"Niger urgently needs more money to fund not only the food crisis but also to help those hit by this second emergency," Sindaye said.

Last week, the UN announced a further 15 million dollars (12 million euros) for World Food Programme operations in Niger.

© 2010 AFP

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