The Famine in Niger
The aim of this paper is to look at the widespread famine in Niger and its effects on the citizens. Famine in this region is greatly influenced by the persistent lack of rainfall and the locusts which feed on young crops thereby reducing yields. The other factor is that the prices of food have been increased massively making it hard for majority of peasants to afford food. The rich western nations have also delayed in offering aid to this country increasing the number of people being affected by this pandemic. Lack of government involvement in controlling food prices and the famine in general.
Niger is among the world’s poorest countries faced with severe humanitarian crisis. Like many other hunger stricken parts of the world famine in this region is as a result of factors contributed by economic, political and biological factors. Lack of intervention and prevention by the government because of the policies adopted has also increased the prevalence of hunger to this region. In the recent years this country has been faced with drought in most parts of the country leading to starvation. In the faming regions there are usually plagues of locusts that attack young crops. Most of the people live on less than a dollar a day and therefore they are unable to cope with the increasing prices. The policies that are adapted by the government make it hard for majority of the people to access humanitarian aid thereby increasing the number of people who are affected lack of food. Cost of living in the country has greatly increased because most of people depend on farming for their livelihood. People have held demonstrations for the government to reduce the prices of food and also adopt new policies that will ensure that the citizens feed but in vain. In fact the government is denying that there is famine and doing nothing but watch their very people dying. Most of the industrialized nations have failed to honor their promises of providing aid to this hunger stricken country. The children and women are adversely affected and death of the especially the young is inevitable. According to international organizations more than 70% of the population is faced with food insecurity and about 35% with very acute food insecurity.
Famine in Niger has been influenced by many factors leaving majority of its citizen on the verge of death. Capitalism is one factor which has greatly reduced access to food by many people especially the very poor. With all the famine in the country the government is able to export food stuffs to other nations instead of feeding their own. This has led to less and less food in the market thereby increasing the price of food substances by up to 75%. This adversely affects the poor who live on very little a day and therefore are unable to afford the high food prices and the conditions of malnutrition in mostly children are witnessed. Capitalism therefore leads to formation of extremes of life style for instance the rich get richer at the expense of the poor by selling food to them at higher prices. Most distributors take advantage of the fact that the food production is low and the demand very high more than the production. They therefore hoard the food stuffs until such a time when they are able to sell at exaggerated prices taking advantage of the desperate situation where by most people has no food. The situation is a controversial one because there is no food in most farmers’ granaries yet there is a lot of food in the market. The big question is how this is possible and the only possibility is that the little food is stored when there is sufficient food and sold when production is low so that the prices are raised.
The Sahel region from time to time is attacked by locusts which cause a lot of damage. Mass of locusts migrates to these regions where they are capable of feeding on enormous food crops causing lot damage. They feed on food crops when very young or just before they mature leading to drastic decrease in the yield. Niger has not been able to escape this and the decreased food production has made it hard for majority of people to harvest whatever they planted: the locust are capable of invading a plantation and leave no plant standing meaning that there will be no harvest of that particular crop. This in one way or another has led to persistent hunger and malnutrition especially for children and the women and thus subsequent death of people. The use of pesticides and other chemicals against the locust have also played a role in the decrease of food production because of their chronic effects on the soil.
For a long time now it has not rained in Niger leading to decreased production of food. Insufficient rain has also affected the livestock keepers because their animals are more prone to death therefore becoming hard for making any money. Death of their animals also means that they are unable to have enough food which can easily lead to malnutrition and death thereafter. As in most regions of the world the effects are felt by the poor who are usually the majority. The food crops do not mature and therefore there will be no food production or if there is then it is too low to support the entire county. It is at these desperate situations when the government and the rich to inflate the food prices making the poor to suffer because they are unable to afford the high prices. They can even go to an extent of selling the little food produced to the neighboring nations watching their citizens dying of hunger whereas the rich are busy doing business of selling the rare commodity to others instead of feeding their own. The government has also been denying that there is famine in Niger or that they are able to handle it. In fact the government accused international media of interfering with the states affairs and overstepping on the issue and actually cheating that the country had food crisis. By this the government was trying to maintain a good reputation to the world at the expense of its citizen’s lives. This has made it hard for the World Food Program and other institutions that can offer aid unable to access the nation and to provide the badly needed aid.
This has also made the western countries to be reluctant in offering the aid to this country making many poor people to suffer the consequences of famine greatly. The number of people unable to access food increases greatly leading to more and more people being affected by hunger thus malnutrition and subsequent death. There is also a major problem in distributing the little aid given meaning that the food does not reach the target group or the people faced with hunger. Distributors are known to hoard food when there are signs of food shortage in future and then sell the food when the shortage actually comes taking advantage of the low food production. There has been a great problem in finding food to buy because most of the supplies prefer to sell their produce to the neighboring countries putting the nation’s citizen at more food insecurity. The economic policies in this country are so bad that they favor only the rich and therefore hindrance of food supply to the poor. Niger has been unable to access financial aid from International Monetary Fund and World Bank because of the existing debt to these western institutions making it even harder for the country to fund the farmers. This leads to a drastic fall in the production of food and to get any aid from these organizations.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have been pressuring the Niger government to carry out reforms so that funding and food aid can be availed to them. These two organizations had even written off some of the Niger debts so that they could adopt these reforms. However, these reforms are not favorable to the average people because they involve increase of many essential products like gasoline, transportation costs, privatization of medical services and also they discourage small scale farming. These factors will only make it harder for the people to access food and also decrease food production because small scale farming is damaged. If the Niger government adopts these policies postulated by the western countries then more and more people will suffer from hunger which can lead to drastic problems in future of this country. This is largely contributed by the fact that most of the people in this country earn so little that even other substances apart from food are just luxury. The government has also been unable to come up with policies which can develop agriculture and to create jobs and therefore the average people are unable to afford the food creating much more food insecurity. The government has been intervening in the food market but does not dictate the price allowing those with supplies to sell at the price they wish to. By this the poor are unable to get food at affordable prices, in fact according to a recent survey showed that the food prices are exaggerated with about 350% percent and therefore the poor will continue to die while the rich continue to prosper at the expense of the poor and hunger stricken. The capitalist in this country have been making huge profits out of hunger as even the government plays a pivotal role in their prosperity by offering them contracts to distribute food in this expansive country. Merchants and distributors are even offered transport and storage services by the government and it is obvious that the merchants also have to share their profits with the government officials.
The aid that has been given in the past for example by the United Nations has ended up being misused and not getting to the poor people. In the recent famine funding and aid was provided by the rich western countries too late and only few of the majority were able to access the food. The government had offered the provided food at subsidized prices and it was neither good because the very poor people could not afford the subsidized prices and ended up not having food. The general public tried severally to held demonstrations in a quest for the government to intervene in the pricing of this precious commodity but in vain. Most of the demonstrators were peasant farmers and also wanted the government to develop agriculture, provide a variety of farming crops and also to support them financially so that they could afford the fertilizers and other essential products for successive production. They also wanted the government to stop servicing the international debt and feed the hungry people in the nation first. If the government does not comply the peasant farmers are more than willing to form neo liberal movements like those of the Latin America till their demands are met. They are confident that with this they will be able to influence the government to do something. So far mass protests against the increasing cost of living and especially the high prices of food have been hundreds of thousands of people and these protests will continue so long as the government does not intervene.
Niger is one of the poorest counties in the world and has been faced with subsequent famines leading to situations such as malnutrition and death of many people. The famine could have been contained by the government but instead of providing food to the poor they have been collaborating with the merchants who charge exaggerated prices. This has increased the number of people affected by the famine leading to more deaths and more cases of malnutrition and other related disorders. It is such a shame that some of the merchants can sell food stuff to the neighboring nations instead of providing to the poor people who cannot even afford to buy food even when they are offered subsidized prices. Denial by the government that there is famine in Niger has also delayed provision of aid from the industrialized counties thereby ending up with more people affected.
The government of Niger has a great responsibility of ensuring that there is enough food in the country by funding the farmers. It has to ensure that the poor are not exploited by the capitalists of the country making sure that even the very poor have access to food. In future they also have to ensure that they adopt policies that are favorable to all the citizens and not a part of them has more privileges than the other in terms of food security.
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