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Niger government that took power in February coup to distribute 21,000 tons of food

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — Niger's government says it is launching a food distribution program in the West African nation.

Government spokesman Mahamane Laouali Dan Dah said Saturday that more than 21,000 tons of food would be given to 1.5 million people in need.

Food has always been a deeply political topic in Niger, one of Africa's poorest nations. Perched on the southern edge of the Sahara, it has suffered cyclical drought for centuries.

Five years ago, Niger faced a similar crisis. Then-President Mamadou Tandja lashed out at humanitarian agencies and opposition parties for allegedly fabricating "false propaganda" for political and economic gain. Several aid groups were expelled.

Tandja, though, was ousted in a February coup.