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Niger drought leaves schools closed

Some 33,000 farmers’ children in Niger have abandoned class to follow their parents as they seek better pasture in the middle of drought © AFP/File / ISSOUF SANOGO

NIAMEY, Niger, Mar 11 – More than half of schoolchildren have quit class in some parts of Niger due to drought which is forcing entire families of farmers to move to seek better pastures, the UN said Friday.

Some 33,000 farmers’ children have abandoned class to follow their parents, with the worst hit areas including the central regions of Maradi and Zinder, Agadez in the north and Tahoua in the west.

In January the government said there had been a “feed deficit” of over 12 million tonnes for 2016, meaning there was simply not enough feed for the country’s 40 million livestock animals.

To help ease the crisis the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Niamey said it was organising stocks of animal feed and other “means of substinence”.

Last month the UN children’s agency said almost 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year from famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Separately Friday a Niger minister said it had discovered over 300 teachers with fake qualifications during a national evaluation ordered in response to falling school standards.

Often hired with no training, there are an estimated 61,000 contracted staff out of a total of 81,000 teachers in the impoverished country.

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