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May 09, 2010

UN warns of possible 'total crop failure' in Niger

Niger is threatened with total crop failure in some areas and the situation is worse than the 2005 crisis, the UN humanitarian chiefJohn Holmes John Holmeshas said.

Ex-President Mamadou Tandja, toppled in a coup in February, was criticised for doing too little then and saying the crisis had been exaggerated.

Nearly 8m people are affected by the drought this year and the UN says up to $130m (£85.5m) is needed to help them.

On a visit to the West African country, Mr Holmes said aid agencies had identified - and were dealing with - the problem early enough to make a difference.

"We have sounded the alarm much earlier," he said, "and we are tackling it much earlier so I hope that we can avoid the worst, and avoid the kind of scenes we've seen before in Niger or in Ethiopia in the 1980s."

The UN emergency relief co-ordinator was visiting the Zinder area of southern Niger, where he said rates of malnutrition in children had increased because of the lack of food.

A man said he had lost more than 80 cattle. "The remaining donkeys are so weak that we have to help. We have to lift them up every time, because there is no food. No pasture."


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