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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Administrator - Chinese Speaking

£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly growing company is...

Recruitment Genius: Start a Career as a Financial Markets Trader

£40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Service Desk Co-ordinator / Client Services Administrator

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will s...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks