The UN chief said he would discuss with Niger’s Prime Minister Hama Amadou measures to deal with the massive crisis gripping one of the world’s poorest nations.
Accompanied by his wife, Mr Annan visited the pediatric wing of a provincial hospital where starving children are being treated, and a village nutrition centre run by Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders).
Earlier, an MSF spokesperson said UN food aid is “not making it to those who need it most.”
The charity said “neither in quantity or quality, was (the United Nations) responding to the gravity of this epidemic of desperate malnutrition.”
MSF said food distribution “was not helping priority victims such as children under five years of age in the most ravaged areas.”
Mr Annan made no direct reply to the criticism by MSF, whose work he praised.
“I have come here to see for myself what is happening and to discuss with the president and the prime minister what we can do together in the short and the long term,” said Mr Annan, speaking in the village of Madara after visiting the nutrition centre.
After visiting the Zinder region, which has been badly hit by the famine, Mr Annan travelled to the capital Niamey for talks with President Mamadou Tandja and members of his government.
He also met with officials of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as well as with representatives of relief charities.
MSF lamented a lack of coordination in UN relief action.
“We expect Kofi Annan to put some order in United Nations agencies that are major actors in this crisis, the World Food Programme and UNICEF,” said Jean-Herve Bradol, who heads the French chapter of MSF, told Agence France Pressse.
MSF is one of a number of bodies to draw the world’s attention to the deadly scale of famine in Niger, a country already hit by desertification and by locust swarms that this year have wreaked havoc on crops across a wide swathe of northern Africa.
The Zinder region, once the breadbasket of the country for staple crops, has become one of the hardest hit by drought and encroaching desert, as well as locust swarms that devastated crops.
According to the United Nations, more than 2.5 million people are “in a vulnerable situation” in Niger, including 32,000 children in “deadly danger”.