Oxfam Australia launches West Africa appeal as Sahel food crisis reaches hunger peak

Africa, Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 02 Jul 2012

International aid agency Oxfam Australia is today launching its West Africa Food Crisis appeal as the situation in the region heads towards the peak of the hunger season.

Across the Sahel region of West and Central Africa, more than 18 million people are affected by the severe food crisis, with more than one million children at risk of severe malnutrition.

Poor and erratic rains, soaring food prices and an extremely poor and vulnerable population have all contributed to the deteriorating conditions in the Sahel.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said more help was desperately needed to prevent a further escalation of the crisis.

“The situation in the Sahel is due to worsen over the coming months as food stocks run out, the rainy season begins, families sell their assets, and cases of malnutrition and malaria rise.

“Now is the time when many farmers should be planting for the next harvest – but with a lack of seeds, tools and fertilisers, many are unable to do so, risking another poor crop season.

“Time is fast running out to get aid into the region before malnutrition rates peak.”

Instability in the region is exacerbating the crisis, especially in Mali where conflict in the north has affected basic social services, hindered aid agencies and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Oxfam is already working across the Sahel, providing emergency food, water and sanitation to approximately 500,000 people affected by the food crisis, and those displaced by conflict in Mali.

Oxfam hopes to reach about 1.8 million people in seven countries – Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Gambia and Chad – with lifesaving aid.

The aid agency is also working to address the underlying causes of the crisis by investing in longer term programs and small scale agriculture, to ensure people have more secure access to food.

“Drought is inevitable but hunger is not,” Mr Hewett said. “We need long-term investment targeted directly at small-holder farmers to boost local food production, and stronger safety nets to help them cope, especially in the hard times.”

Mr Hewett said the Australian Government had already showed generous support, providing $30 million to the West Africa food crisis, and he urged all Australians to get behind Oxfam Australia’s West Africa Food Crisis Appeal.

“There is no time to lose. The food crisis in the Sahel is set to worsen unless we can get lifesaving aid, including food and water, to people across the region in desperate need.”

To donate to Oxfam Australia’s West Africa Food Crisis Appeal, call 1800 034 034 or go to www.oxfam.org.au

For interviews or more information contact:

In Dakar, Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on +221 77 417 2376, +61 400 732 795 or cheecheel@oxfam.org.au

In Melbourne, Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Raina Hunter on +61 402 145 820 or rainah@oxfam.org.au