A total of 950 tons of highly nutritious corn soya blend (CSB) is being airlifted aboard chartered jets to Niger’s capital, Niamey, through WFP’s depot in Brindisi, Italy. The CSB complements WFP’s general food distributions which got under way earlier this week at village level. So far this week, some 5,000 persons received their rations.”Since many families now rely on only one meal a day, having used up all their food reserves, these rations are delivered just in time,” said Khaled Adly, acting WFP Regional Director for West Africa.The agency last week tripled the funds it had requested to deal with crisis arising from drought and the worst invasion of crop-devouring locusts in 15 years in the world’s second poorest country, aiming to get food assistance to all at-risk areas to avoid an increase in hunger among the 2.65 million people most at risk.Of the nearly $81 million total requested in its revised Niger appeal, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that more than $29 million has been received to date, along with pledges of an additional $13 million. The donor community has also contributed some $25 million in humanitarian assistance outside of the appeal, bringing total donor assistance to the country to more than $54 million.During this first round of distributions, WFP aims to provide food aid to 1.85 million people, with the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) covering the remaining 800,000 needy people.”We are pulling out all the stops to feed our beneficiaries as fast as possible over the next six weeks,” said Mr. Adly. “That means not only flying in the most urgent food, CSB, but also increasing the number of road convoys carrying rice from the port of Lomé, in neighbouring Togo, in addition to hastening the arrival of trucks loaded with maize from Cotonou in Benin.”A second round of distribution is planned next month, before the October harvest.As famine threatens to spread through the region, neighbouring countries including Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso are also at risk of serious food shortages due to drought and locust invasion. In the case of Mali, WFP announced it was preparing to launch a new appeal for funds next week, having used $2 million of its emergency funds there after a poor harvest increased grain prises and forced people to migrate both for food and in search of work. The agency has assisted close to half a million people out of the 1.2 million threatened by hunger there.