Vital aid appeal as Niger and Sahel face starvation

The Disasters Emergency Committee aims to get urgent supplies of food to eight million people whose harvest was destroyed last year by droughts and locusts in Niger and neighbouring countries in the Sahel region of West Africa.

The Red Cross Federation, meanwhile, will begin distributing food to 23,000 children and their families in four of the worst hit parts of the country today.

Mark Snelling, part of the British Red Cross operation in Niger, said: "There are centres for the severely malnourished, but we also want to provide food for those who are not yet in need of urgent medical attention. If we feed them now, we hope to stop the situation getting out of hand."

The UN's World Food Programme and British charities such as Save the Children have already flown vital supplies to Niger, but aid agencies in the field say demand for more supplies is still a high. They also hope that by getting food to countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania, they can save people there from Niger's plight.

The DEC, an umbrella group which brings in charities such as Action Aid and Oxfam will run a radio and TV campaign urging people to make telephone and on-line donations straight away.

"We need the public to donate whatever they can today to help us save lives," said Brendan Gormley, the DEC's chief executive. "DEC members are working together to get vital supplies of food to those who need it most urgently in Niger and are also scaling up their efforts in the other countries of the Sahel region in West Africa, which are also badly affected. Every second counts."

Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières, the aid agency that is treating the most acutely malnourished people in Niger, warned that a similar crisis has hit south Sudan. The area has suffered from a poor harvest and erratic rains, and food supplies have been further depleted by tens of thousands of refugees who have returned there after the end of a 20-year civil war.

In just one area, Aweil East county, 7,000 children are close to starving to death.

The current spate of food shortages across Africa prompted the Secretary of State for International Development, Hillary Benn, to call for a humanitarian fund which would give the UN the ability to respond to threats of famine without waiting for money from the international community.

"Does the international system work properly in these terrible tragedies? The answer is, it doesn't," he told the BBC. "The crisis we are now seeing unfolding in Niger is a really good reason why we have to do better in the future."

The UN and the government of Niger warned last November that a plague of locusts and a series of droughts had created acute food shortages in parts of the country, but the international community did not raise funds until this May.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Physics Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Physics Teacher January 201...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: General Cover Teachers required ...

Maths Teacher

Main Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Maths Teacher Required This Catholi...

Behaviour Support Assistant (BSA)

(?19,817 ? ?21,734)Pro Rata: Randstad Education Leeds: Behaviour Support Assis...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?