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For Immediate Release
Contact: Lurma Rackley,Public Relations Director,Phone: +1.404.979.9450 (Atlanta),Mobile: +1.404.394.8298,E-mail:,

Aid Agencies Call for a 'Surge' in Aid Effort to Help 10 Million Facing Hunger in West Africa


Ten leading
aid agencies today called for a 'surge' in the humanitarian effort to
help 10 million people at risk of acute hunger across the Sahel region
of West and Central Africa. The centre of the crisis is Niger, where
seven million people, almost half the population, have not enough food.
A further two million people in Chad, and hundreds of thousands more in
Mali, Mauritania, parts of Burkina Faso and the extreme north of
Nigeria are also suffering as a result of the crisis.

agencies - including ACF, CARE International, Oxfam, Save the Children
and Tearfund1 - said that new malnutrition figures underlined the need
to act immediately. The latest statistics from Niger show that nearly
17 per cent of children under five are now suffering from acute
malnutrition, over a third higher than the number last year.

high-level political response is needed to galvanise the effective and
urgent delivery of aid as well as to ensure more funding. In
particular, the agencies urged the UN to appoint a special
representative for the crisis to help speed up the massive aid effort
across several countries, and negotiate with governments both in the
crisis-affected countries and the donor states.

more than six months of warnings, the funding for the crisis has been
paltry and slow with the UN appeal for Niger still $107m short of its
target. Some countries have increased their support, but others have
been slower and less generous. The aid agencies called on rich
countries to give generously and immediately fund the crisis in order
to prevent a catastrophe, and to engage at highest political levels to
overcome current delays in the delivery of aid.

in funding have resulted in the late purchase and delivery of food to
the affected areas. In Niger, for example, World Food Programme (WFP)
distributions started too late and with a reduced number of people
receiving food aid. On 2 July WFP announced it will increase the number
of people it is helping in Niger from two to 4.5 million in the face of
the appalling new malnutrition figures. In Chad, where the WFP needs an
extra $20 million, food distributions are planned for only two months -
yet as in Niger, it will take three or more months for the next harvest
to be ready.

''We found one pocket of nearly 200
families stranded in the middle of the desert, surrounded by their
dying herd of cattle, and with less than a three weeks' supply of food
left for their families,'' said Stephane Petitprez, CARE's Emergency
Response Director in Niger. ''One family had sent a convoy of five
camels to a market three days' walk away for help, but they didn't make
it. The camels died on the way back.

''The animals
are dying, and the future of these families are dying with them. We
warned that this would happen. We need the international community to
step up now and stop it from getting worse.''

crop failure, pest infestations, increases in food prices and abject
levels of poverty have triggered severe food shortages and poor grazing
land, forcing people to leave their homes, and sell or kill their
starving livestock and their meagre possessions. Such desperate
measures not only indicate the depth of the crisis but also undermine
investment in long-term development, the aid agencies warn.

the world's least developed country, is the worst hit with 7.1 million
people in need of humanitarian aid. Nearly half a million children
under the age of five are acutely malnourished, with a risk of
permanent damage or death if they are not treated urgently. The cereal
harvest has fallen by 30 per cent and pasture, essential for livestock
herders, is 60 per cent below requirements.

In Chad,
a country also affected by a long running conflict, some two million
are affected by food shortages. There are reports of women resorting to
eating seeds from anthills, with malnutrition rates of 27 per cent in
some locations. Hundreds of thousands more are at risk in Mali, Burkina
Faso and northern Nigeria.

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CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. We place special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of HIV, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity and protect natural resources. CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives.