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Mounting Concern for the Hungry in Chad as Hope Rises in Niger

ROME – As harvest time approaches in the Eastern Sahel, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that rates of malnutrition among children remain at critical levels in Chad.

“We’ve seen the positive impact of timely, well-coordinated food and nutrition assistance delivered in partnership with the government in Niger,” said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. “The situation in Chad is still alarming.  After a long and crippling lean season children are weak and need to continue receiving food and nutritional support.”

Earlier this year, after weak and erratic rainfall across the eastern Sahel, much of the 2009 harvest was destroyed, the landscape parched and watering holes for cattle dried up. Malnutrition rates climbed at an alarming rate. In response, WFP mounted emergency food assistance operations in Niger and Chad with the aim of meeting the nutritional needs of the young children and keeping families fed through the lean season when food is in short supply and prices rise.

“In Niger we’re beginning to see the price of food fall on local markets in some areas, and the malnutrition rates among the very young are stabilizing in parts of the country,” said Manuel Aranda da Silva, WFP’s Emergency Coordinator for the Eastern Sahel, who has just concluded a fact-finding mission to Niger and Chad. “The high levels of malnutrition I saw among children in Chad convinced me that we are going to have to maintain the high momentum of our current operation at least for the next 3 months, and start working on some of the structural causes of malnutrition and food insecurity to increase resilience to recurrent droughts.”

“The health system in Chad does not cover all areas, and there are fewer non-governmental organisations to support WFP’s food distributions,” Aranda da Silva added, saying that with *Global Acute Malnutrition rates among under two year olds as high as 26 percent in some places it would be dangerous to scale back nutritional support for young children, even though harvests are about to come in.

*The World Health Organisation categorizes rates of GAM of 15 percent and above as “critical” or at emergency levels.

For Further Information:
Alexandre Brecher, WFP/N'Djamena, Tel. +235 6699 3415, Mob. +235 52133 51 ext.2415
Vigno Hounkanli, WFP/Niamey, Tel. +227 207 22320, Mob. +227 91205585
Gregory Barrow, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 2330, Mob. +39 348 1325018
Caroline Hurford, WFP/London, Tel. +44-20-72409001, Mob. +44-7968-008474