A Snapshot of The Humanitarian Crisis in Niger, 2019

By Ashvin Ramasamy

The “Breadbasket” Market Conditions of Niger

Results of the latest harvest indicates favourable results for cereal production, with an added emphasis on a national surplus on the part of authorities. However, by the same token a considerable portion of Nigeriens face vulnerable conditions that limit access to affordable food. State authorities have taken measures to ensure that the 650,000 people facing risk of high to acute hunger benefit from the deployment of 165,000 metric tons of cereal and 2,600 metric tons of sugar, free of charge. With the majority of people sustaining themselves through agro-pastoralist activities, the government has earmarked 10,000 tons of fodder for livestock consumption for this year alone. The FAO expects that figure to grow to more than 1.2 million people during June to August of this year if swift intervention measures are not called.

Similarly, cereal prices do not show a spike at this time, except for the three most vulnerable regions (see next section below) due to violent conflict and protracted state of emergencies. Markets have thus been generally stable, supported by the surplus of production mentioned above. Specifically, coarse grains registered price drops relative to the five-year average, leading up to December 2018, due in part to a positive November harvest and sustained trade flows.

Regional insecurities will continue to disrupt market conditions — at least for the next few months — as insecure populations (in Diffa, among others) under threat of armed conflict and emergency state require special attention to food security. This also effectively disables or at least alters an otherwise good distribution of goods and services coming from hotspots of agro-pastoralist production. The consequences include higher prices and food shortages, creating conditions difficult to manage for the very poor and marginalized communities. The end result could be further damaging for groups as incoming transiting groups from neighbouring states will compete for scarce resources.

Conflict & Displacement: Facts & Figures

The ongoing intercommunal conflict on the southwestern regional border of Tillaberi with Mali, one cluster of border towns comprising Ikerfan and Agaigai, and the opposite front in contested Haguaye and Titahoune, exacerbates an already critical situation for innocent lives. Humanitarian response indicates that women and children suffer tremendous trauma as a result of the persistent conflict. The situation is not limited to that part of country but is reflected in many parts where displaced and in-transit populations face dire consequences. Where Tillaberi counts roughly 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), Diffa counts 120,000 refugees in addition to 104,000 IDPs and 26,000 returning people that previously fled. A recent count in Tahoua brings its total to 50,000 IDPs and 18,000 refugees. Returning Libyans and Algerians are estimated to be in the tens of thousands crossing through Niger in 2019. The constraint is that Niger is barely meeting some of the humanitarian needs of its own people! Given that Tallaberi, Diffa and Tahoua account for 50% of the Nigerien population in need of humanitarian assistance, available resources in the public coffers are inadequate. The international community is expected to fill the financial gap to cover basic needs of the incoming populations.

The undesirable effects of climate change is putting herders and farmers in a tussle for scarce resources. Though this conflict dates back beyond the recognition of a changing climate and the consequences on vital life resources, the more frequent and devastating weather phenomena have deteriorated relations with an elevated level animosity and violence.

The situation has become dire as climate change adds another limiting factor to communities’ livelihoods — having faced hardships from different causes for at least a few decades now:

● Underdevelopment,
● Long-standing Endemic Poverty,
● Unchecked Criminality and Violence

Humanitarian Response Plans for 2019

The requested aid for addressing the multidimensional crisis comprehensively amounts to a hefty sum of $383 million for the 1.6 million most vulnerable people — making up 10 percent of the population. Well coordinated & ongoing planning will need to be sustained as the situation unfolds in 2019, with concerns of natural disasters, armed conflict, food insecurity and forced displacement and the likelihood of epidemics. The United Nations response plan will focus on consolidating much-needed resources in social and health service centres in addition to enabling access to those centres for the vulnerable population of Niger. Contingencies have been organized to combat potential disease outbreaks but also for preventative action in at-risk regions of the country. External efforts will make donor aid a priority to boost national emergency responses to anticipated shocks so as to meet the state-developed humanitarian strategy.