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Niger: 7.7 million people are going hungry

I’ve just arrived in Niger. It’s the sixth largest country in Africa and the least-developed country in the world. The north is in the Sahara desert. I’ve been sent here because more than half of the people in this huge country don’t have enough food to eat.

7.7 million people are going hungry. 127,000 children under five years old have been admitted to hospital for malnutrition-related problems since the start of the year. That’s like having a city the size of Oxford full of no one but starving babies and toddlers. It’s terrifying.

This hasn’t just been caused by the erratic rainfall last year, although it hasn’t helped. The major problem is that globally the price of food has risen by about 20% each year since 2007. Food is available in Niger, mainly imported from the neighbouring countries, but the poorest, most vulnerable families just can’t afford to buy it.

The reasons for the price increase are still under debate – increases in bio-fuel production,international trade agreements, rising fuel prices. Whatever the combination of factors, it’s fairly unlikely that the poorest people in the world are responsible. They don’t use crude oil products, don’t use bio-fuel, and don’t trade internationally. But they’re the ones suffering the effects.

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