|Already High Child Mortality Rates Soars in Niger|
Drought killed off last year’s harvest in the in Niger’s inhospitable habitat where Tourareg and Haoussa farmers plant small crops of millet and pumpkins; and what drought did not consume, locusts did.
Now as many as 3.5 million rural people face severe malnutrition, famine, and the anguish of the dying children.
Even in the best of times, child mortality in the second-poorest nation in the world is high—one in four, according to World Food Programme statistics. Many children never make it past their fifth birthdays—262 children in every thousand. Niger is an arid country north of Nigeria and west of Chad.
Up to 150,000 children could die of starvation without immediate intervention that religious and humanitarian organizations are struggling to supply.
UMCOR is participating in an alliance of ecumenical aid agencies to provide emergency relief to 55 stricken villages. UMCOR’s partner is Swiss Interchurch Aid, known as HEKS, which has long-term commitments in Niger. The United Methodist Church in Switzerland is an alliance member.
HEKS and UMCOR are delivering seeds, cattle fodder, and staple foods, such as milk powder, in the southern region of the country.
The current crisis is the worst in Niger’s history based on estimates of crop and animal food shortages. Appeals to international donors by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme went unheeded until recently.
Malnutrition is the outward symptom of problems faced by Niger, according to observers familiar with the region. Lack of drinking water, inadequate sanitation, poor health care, and the high prevalence of malaria are systemic woes that intensify the disaster.
UMCOR is initially responding with funds from its All Africa Drought and Famine Appeal, but additional funding is necessary to handle the crisis. “Faithful year-round giving to this fund means we are able to make rapid response,” says the Rev. Kristen Sachen, head of the emergency relief office. “Please, for the sake of the children of Niger, and many others who do not quickly come to mind, we must keep this Advance fund alive.”
The crisis in Niger is acute. Persons wishing to provide gifts by credit card may call toll free, 800-554-8583. Checks may be mailed to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Checks are payable to UMCOR, and designated Advance #101250, All Africa Drought and Famine, Niger. United Methodist Committee on Relief follows the professional accounting and auditing regulations of The United Methodist Church. It is exempt from tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States and qualifies for the maximum charitable contribution deduction by donors.
Date posted: Aug 08, 2005