Famine almost unavoidable in Sahel, without full-scale emergency responseDate: 11/06/12
Author: Keith Ramsay
The food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa is at critical point, and famine is almost unavoidable for the more than 18 million affected people, says TEAR Fund NZ. TEAR Fund executive director Steve Tollestrup says aid agencies such as TEAR Fund have been warning that the situation was grave since last year, when crops failed but the response has been slow and inadequate. TEAR Fund, through its partners, has been distributing emergency food in Niger for some time, but much more is needed to avoid widespread starvation, he says.
“While the drought is an act of nature, famine comes when we ignore the warning signs. Mr Tollestrup says, “TEAR Fund launched an appeal some time ago but the response has been slow, and for many in Niger, it is already too late.”
For Niger and many other countries across the Sahel, it's been a crisis in the making since crops failed last year. In villages across Niger, families have been forced to sell the animals they had left, to get cash for food, but no-one has any money to buy them. Rapidly increasing food prices have only compounded the problem, he says.
Mr Tollestrup says, Karima is just one of thousands of victims counting the cost of Niger’s food crisis. Her mother Dayba says, ‘I feel weak, and I have no breast milk for my baby which makes her cry. She tells of how they came to be at the clinic, when their millet crop failed. 'We didn’t collect any food from the harvest. At the time we planted millet, there was not enough rain.'
Mr Tollestrup says, the sooner we scale-up our response, the more lives we save and the cost of saving those lives will be reduced. But we need the support of Kiwis to do that. “We are urging people to give so that more children like Karima can survive.”
To give to TEAR Fund’s, Save the Sahel appeal, go to tearfund.org.nz
or phone 0800 800 777.
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