'Revolutionary' Hope Amid Famine

There may be rays of hope in famine-ravaged Niger, in the form of international aid that's beginning to arrive, and a food product one doctor calls "revolutionary."

Still, it will be at least two months until efforts begin to bear fruit, says one doctor who just left the African nation.

Dr. Milton Tectonidis, a nutrition specialist with the group Doctors Without Borders, spent the past month in Niger, touring all of his organization's facilities.

Niger is the world's second-poorest country, and one-third of its people are desperate for food. Last year, a severe drought and an invasion of locusts led to a terrible harvest. Warnings of a hunger crisis were ignored. Now, the children of Niger are suffering most. Some 800,000 of them are starving, even as emergency supplies start to trickle in.

Tectonidis disputes a claim made to the British Broadcasting Corporation by Niger's president, who says the people of his country look well fed.

"We're seeing large numbers of severely malnourished children," he Tracy Smith on The Early Show Friday. "We've been there since 2001. And this year, as of January, the numbers (of hungry people) tripled. …So, from what we're seeing on the ground as doctors, it's a bad year, a very bad year."

The next harvest in Niger isn't until October, which concerns Tectonidis: "There is some improvement on the ground. Finally, there's been some action taken in the last few months. The desperate situation was from January until July or August, when there was very little movement.
  • Brian Dakss

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