After a bad harvest, Niger, a poverty-stricken West Africa country, is said to be losing about 15 people a day to hunger.

Students at the University are invited to eat dinner to help.

The Michigan Graduate Student Association is hosting a relief dinner to raise money for the victims of the Niger famine. The Michigan Student Assembly International Student Affairs co-chair Mohammad Dar said MSA has put forth money for the dinner.

“We’re coordinating with other student groups to have an event in which students can find out more about what’s going on in Niger,” said MGSA member Mohammad Khalil.

The Muslim Law Students Association and Students of Color of Rackham are also helping with the organization of this event. They invited Michigan State University Prof. John Staatz to speak at the dinner, which will be from 6 to 9 p.m. in the assembly hall of the Horace H. Rackham Building.

Khalil said the organizations sponsoring the dinner haven’t forgotten about devastation here at home caused by Katrina.

“Now that Katrina happened, donators can choose for their money to go towards either Niger aid or hurricane relief,” Khalil said. “We don’t want to take attention away from Katrina, but the issue in Niger is important too.”

While there are many people starving and homeless in New Orleans, Dar said more than 3.5 million people in Niger are also in danger of starving to death.

“The rate of death is two times what the United Nations would call an emergency,” he said.

Staatz said a widespread lack of Niger’s income growth combined with an increase of the locust population caused the hardship.

“A collapse of income is why many are starving,” he said. “They rely on livestock, and recently the livestock have died due to locusts. So many people had to sell their animals quickly, which led the price of animals to fall. A large amount of money of the hungry relied on their livestock.”

Raising money is a way to begin to help the situation, but Staatz said he thinks it won’t completely solve the problem.

Staatz said he planned to draw an analogy of what is happening in Niger and what happened in New Orleans when he speaks at the dinner Monday night.

“What happened in Niger is not short-term but results from long-term problems, and these problems need to be addressed,” he said.

But to solve a long-term problem, Staatz said aid needs to help countries to the point where these crises don’t occur in the future.

“Clearly when people are starving you’ve go to respond,” Staatz said. “I hope students get a better understanding of root causes of problems in Niger and what to do to help it.”

The suggested minimum donation is $10. Money will go toward either Islamic Relief – an international relief charity non-governmental organization – or the American Red Cross.

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