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Niger migrants' return from Libya plunges families deeper into hunger

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:06 GMT
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LONDON (AlertNet) - The families of 90,000 Nigerien migrants forced home because of the uprising in Libya face greater hunger and poverty now they no longer receive regular remittances, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

The men were mostly working on construction sites and farms in Libya, which borders Niger.

An IOM poll showed 86 percent used to send enough money to support five family members in Niger, and that their return had "an overall negative impact" on the lives of hundreds of thousands of others living in areas hit by chronic food insecurity and underemployment.

"Most of the returnees say they urgently need financial or in-kind assistance to help them resume a productive life," said Abibatou Wane, IOM's chief of mission in Niger, in a statement.

"But we need to go beyond providing direct reintegration assistance to the returnees. We also need to support communities that have been made even more vulnerable by the Libyan conflict and simply cannot cope anymore."

Last week, authorities in the West African state said Niger was on the cusp of another food crisis as erratic rains and insect infestations of crops have caused crop failure in several parts of the country.

President Mahamadou Issoufou has appealed for international help, saying Niger is set to face a cereal deficit of 400,000 tonnes.

Aid groups say Nigeriens are barely recovering from 2009/2010 food shortages - another crisis would make them even more vulnerable.

Almost 41 percent of the returnees said they were employed in Libya’s construction sector and 23 percent in agriculture.

The remainder worked as drivers, mechanics, small traders or dockers in the informal sector of the Libyan economy before the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's 42 years of one-man rule prompted them to leave the North African desert state.

When asked what they would like to do in Niger, 57 percent of returnees said they wanted to work in agriculture, 23 percent in trading, 8 percent in raising animals and the others in construction and trade.

"This survey underlines the need to put in place a variety of reintegration options," Wane said. "This is particularly important at a time when the authorities are warning of increased crop failure due to erratic rains and insect attacks."

Niger, located in West Africa’s arid Sahel region that runs south of the Sahara desert, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It depends on rain-fed agriculture for its food needs and has a history of food shortages and nutrition crises.

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