“The trip is intended to show solidarity with the people and Government of Niger and also to help focus international attention on the special developmental challenges faced by the countries of the Sahel, such as Niger,” said a UN spokesman today. Mr. Annan will begin his two-day trip in Zinder, in the south of the country, where he will be welcomed by President Mamadou Tandja. He will visit the pediatric service at Zinder Hospital and then head to a local feeding centre operated by MSF-Switzerland. On Thursday, Mr. Annan is expected to meet with the President and Prime Minister in the capital, Niamey, while there he will confer with UN and humanitarian staff and attend a meeting on food security, facilitated by the UN World Food Programme (WFP). He is also expected to attend a meeting on local development and democracy, facilitated by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Asked if Mr. Annan would be appealing for financial contributions for Niger during his visit there, the spokesman noted that the UN had already issued an appeal, and that the Secretary-General would be working to raise awareness on the need to fulfil it.