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Malnourished nation given food



Published: Sat, July 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



MARADI, Niger (AP) -- Food by the truckload is finally reaching remote northern Niger, eight months after the first pleas for help for the hungry.

Almost a third of Niger's population of 11.3 million people risk starvation in this already desperately poor West African nation, hit first by a locust invasion and then by drought.

Children are the most vulnerable -- some 800,000 under age 5 are suffering from hunger, including 150,000 faced with severe malnutrition.

But repeated U.N. appeals beginning in November went almost unanswered until the situation reached crisis proportions.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, visiting the capital Niamey on Saturday, chided the international community for its "indifference and avarice." France said it was tripling some aid to Niger, its former colony.

"We thank God, even if the food came a little late," said Mohammed Abdoulaye of the Agency for Muslims in Africa, an aid group working in this overwhelmingly Muslim country. Since July, the agency's feeding center in Maradi alone has admitted some 700 mothers and children, feeding them every day.

"With what we just received, we can do even more, send the mothers home with some extra food," Abdoulaye said.




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