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first_world

Niger leader denies hunger claims

Niger President Mamadou Tanja has dismissed reports that his country is experiencing a famine. He accepted there were food shortages in some areas after poor rains and locust invasions but said this was not unusual for his country. Mr Tanja said the idea of a famine was being exploited for political and economic gain by opposition parties and United Nations aid agencies.

The World Food Programme denied that the scale of the problems had been exaggerated. "We have not spoken about famine but about pockets of severe malnutrition," WFP spokesman Greg Barrow told the BBC. On Monday, the WFP started the general distribution of food in parts of southern Niger. Until now, it has been giving out food in schools or food for work schemes.

Mr Tanja said if the problems were serious, shanty towns would form around the big towns, people would flee to neighbouring countries and street beggars would become more prevalent. Mr Tanja said this had not happened. "We are experiencing like all the countries in the Sahel a food crisis due to the poor harvest and the locust attacks of 2004," Mr Tanja said. But he said the reports of famine were "false propaganda" being circulated by opposition politicians and UN agencies for their own interests.

"We are experiencing like all the countries in the Sahel a food crisis due to the poor harvest and the locust attacks of 2004," Mr Tanja said. But he said the reports of famine were "false propaganda" being circulated by opposition politicians and UN agencies for their own interests.
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