Aid Agencies Ramp Up Efforts for West Africa Famine


Photo credit: Save the Children

As the famine in West Africa continues to intensify, Australian aid agencies say they are doing all they can to prevent the looming food crisis.

Save the Children has called on the Federal Government to sound the alarm and pledge tens of millions of dollars to the cause, where it says 13 million people are at risk of severe hunger.

The child rights agency says that the call follows last year’s action by the Federal Government to help lead the international community’s response to the Horn of Africa food crisis by contributing $128 million to the crisis.

Save the Children says that so far the government has pledged just $10 million for the current food crisis in West Africa.

The agency says that action by the government could help avert a major humanitarian crisis.

Save the Children’s Director of Emergency Programs Scott Gilbert said that the government needs to follow up last year’s generous response with “swift action” to save lives in West Africa.

“We’re not seeing starving babies yet, but we fear we might unless the Australian Government and the international community act and act now,” Gilbert said.

Meanwhile, World Vision Australia chief executive, Tim Costello, will hold high-level talks in Nairobi, Kenya this week as part of the Beating Famine conference - a joint initiative by World Vision and the World Agroforestry Center.

World Vision says the conference is aimed at combating hunger through environmental and agricultural initiatives.

Agricultural ministers from four African nations are said to be attending the conference along with representatives from the UN Environment Programme, FAO, AusAID, USAID, African Union, World Bank and other NGOs.

Tim Costello said that hunger is the single biggest solvable problem the world faces.

“It kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, and yet by 2050 we expect that climate change and erratic weather conditions will have pushed another 24 million children into hunger,” Costello said.

“Through this conference, we hope that governments, NGOs and also communities see the power of simple, effective environmental techniques as a new way of tackling hunger.”

A recent joint study by a coalition of aid agencies recently found that between 70 and 90 per cent of people from communities in western and eastern Niger fear their food stocks will run out before the next harvest, creating an imminent ‘hunger gap’.

The study, by the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) and the Emergency Capacity Building Project (a coalition including CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision), with input from the World Food Programme and the Government of Niger, also revealed a pending humanitarian disaster in the Sahel if the world does not respond quickly with urgently-needed assistance to those already in crisis, and activities to prevent more families from going hungry.

Australian aid agencies World Vision, Care Australia, Save the Children and Oxfam have launched appeals to raise funds for the West Africa food crisis. 

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