Caritas says the Sahel region of West Africa is heading for a humanitarian tragedy unless the international community responds to the mounting food crisis.
At least ten million people in the region face hunger. Niger is the worst hit country, with 8 million people at risk. Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso are also facing food shortages.
Niger faces a shortfall of USD 50 million in aid, leaving the country with only have half of what it needs to feed the hungry. Only 47,000 MT of the 85,000 MT of food aid Niger requested has been committed.
Niger’s free health system is almost bankrupt which would have devastating consequences for children as malnutrition treatment programmes are run through health centres
Raymond Yoro, Secretary General of Caritas Niger said, “We are facing a potential child survival emergency in Niger. 378,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition and a further 1.2 million are at risk of moderate malnutrition.
“Niger faces much worse food shortages than the last major crisis in 2005. The lesson then was delays in aid cost lives. Yet despite raising the alarm in December 2009, donors have been slow to provide funding.
“It’s not too late to avert a tragedy. Donors must immediately give the resources governments in the Sahel and aid agencies need. We also need hunger safety nets, strengthened early warning systems, and climate change adaptation programmes to avoid future food crises.”
Irregular rainfall, crop deficits, rising food prices and chronic poverty have all contributed to the spiralling food crisis in 2010. People have been experiencing severe food shortages for six months. They are now reliant on extreme means of coping including selling off livestock, eating wild foods, taking children out of school and abandoning their homes in a search for food.
In May, Caritas launched an appeal for USD 3.5 million (Euro 2.9 million) to provide 246,000 vulnerable households with food aid, cash for work and seeds and 17,000 children and pregnant and new mothers with special treatment.
Caritas Internationalis set up the Sahel Working Group following the 2005 food crisis. Read a full analysis of their action plan for 2010 on www.caritas.org.