“The situation of children in Niger is critical and we are in a race against time to save their lives,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Niger Representative Aboudou Karimou Adjibade said, noting that 32,000 children are suffering from severe under-nutrition and 160,000 more from moderate under-nutrition.”Children are arriving at therapeutic feeding centres barely clinging to their lives. While there is a high recovery rate for those children who are treated, for some, it is too late,” he added. “Thousands more children need life-saving assistance now, and with the appropriate resources, we will be able to save lives.”The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said that beyond communicable illnesses, cases of water and sanitation-related diseases, diarrhoea, cholera, tuberculosis and malaria were expected to rise as a result of the hunger crisis, due to the effects of drought and the worst infestation of crop-devouring locusts in 15 years.A WHO assessment mission is currently underway and the agency plans to provide support to Niger’s health ministry in the areas of coordination, early detection of communicable diseases, and training of personnel to deal with severe malnutrition. It is also working with Niger on a new emergency strategy to provide drugs free of charge.The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was progressively increasing the number of people targeted for aid and expected it to more than double to 2.5 million over the coming months on the frontline of one of the worst crises ever to hit Niger.To date, WFP has been targeting 1.2 million, but it is already lifting its immediate objective to 1.6 million of the worst-hit victims.The agency said it was on course to reach its target of dispatching some 4,220 tons of food aid to its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners by the end of the week. Earlier this week, a 25-strong convoy of lorries loaded with 996 tons of rice and 550 tons of pulses – vital components in WFP’s food rations for Niger – set-off along the 800-kilometre road from Lomé, Togo, destined for Niamey – a five-day journey.Some 15,000 tons of rice has already been offloaded at the port of Lomé, ready to be trucked north to Niger.A technical fault in its Ilyushin-76 aircraft has forced a 24-hour postponement of WFP’s planned airlift of high-energy biscuits out of the agency’s humanitarian response depot in Brindisi, southern Italy. The flight is now scheduled for today with a second airlift planned for Sunday.Together, the two flights will carry 70,000 tons of high energy biscuits, enough to feed 100,000 of Niger’s hungry, as well as essential non-food items, such as generators and mobile warehouses.Last week the UN almost doubled its emergency appeal for Niger to $30.7 million and said it would increase it yet again. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said thousands of children had already died in the crisis.