While members of the G8 gather today in Scotland to discuss whether or not to help Africa, 3.6 million people in Niger are walking the slow road to starvation. The worst locust infestation in 15 years decimated crops through west and central Africa, and a worsening drought has withered any remaining harvest.
This is the Africa being discussed at this week's conference, where drought and food shortages are problems that many Africans face every day. Development programmes and government initiatives are working to fight poverty, but natural disasters such as drought are constant challenges.
"After years of struggling, Niger was finally starting to get ahead. Women had formed micro-credit groups, more people could afford to send their children to school, they had enough to eat. But in one fell swoop, they're knocked down again," said Gail Neudorf, CARE Canada's Emergency Team Coordinator.
Today, farmers are forced to eat the seed they should be saving to plant for next year's harvest. Their livestock are dying. Members of micro-credit groups can't pay back their loans. Children no longer have school fees.
"It's not like here in Canada, where we have social safety nets to help people," said Neudorf. "The government of Niger has tried to deal with this emergency, but Niger is the second-poorest country in the world. They need outside help, or people will starve."
Niger is just one of nearly a dozen countries in Africa facing severe food shortages this year. The UN estimates that more than 30 million people in East, West and Southern Africa -- equal to the population of Canada -- will need food aid in the coming months. CARE is responding to this latest crisis, and implementing long-term development programmes to fight the impact of natural disasters such as drought.
What is CARE doing to help?
Using lessons learned from the last major drought in 2002, CARE is working with other partners in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to help people prevent and recover from food shortages. In Kenya, CARE is distributing food. In Mali, CARE is working with the government to reduce the impact of the locust infestation on the food supply. In Eritrea, a seed fair project provides seed and ploughing to 2,700 families.
In Mozambique and Somalia, CARE works in drought-prone regions to improve food productivity. In Ethiopia, the community-based therapeutic care programme saves children suffering from severe malnutrition. And in Niger, CARE is delivering food and seeds to thousands of starving families. These are just some of the many programmes CARE is implementing across Africa to address food shortages, help people mitigate the impact of drought, and improve food production.