African Food Crisis Leaves 10 Million Hungry

Caritas: Delay in Aid Costs Lives

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NIAMEY, Niger, JUNE 16, 2010 ( Caritas is calling for international aid to abate a food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, where 10 million people are facing hunger.

Niger is the worst hit with 8 million people at risk, Caritas reported today, although there are also food shortages in Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Raymond Yoro, secretary general of Caritas Niger, called for immediate help, affirming, «It’s not too late to avert a tragedy.»

«We are facing a potential child survival emergency in Niger,» he said, as «378,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition and a further 1.2 million are at risk of moderate malnutrition.»

The crisis, resulting from irregular rainfall, crop deficits, rising food prices and chronic poverty, is «much worse» than the last food shortage in 2005, the aid agency reported.

«The lesson then was that delays in aid cost lives,» Yoro lamented. «Yet despite raising the alarm in December 2009, donors have been slow to provide funding.»

The agency stated that people have been experiencing severe food shortages for six months already, and are now selling off livestock, eating wild foods, taking children out of school and abandoning their homes in a search for food.

Yoro called for immediate donations as well as «hunger safety nets, strengthened early warning systems, and climate change adaptation programs to avoid future food crises.»

Niger has only half of the amount of resources needed to feed the hungry, and is still short $50 million. As well, the country’s health system, which runs free malnutrition treatment programs, is almost bankrupt.

Caritas has been running a campaign since May to collect $3.5 million in order to provide 246,000 households with food, seeds, and other aid, and 17,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers with special care.

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