Over one million people in Mali are at
risk of a major food crisis gripping West Africa because rich countries
have not responded to the call for emergency funds, warned international
aid agency Oxfam today.
Only a fraction - 14 per cent - of the $7.4m requested by the World Food Programme to avert the crisis in Mali has been received since the appeal was launched in December 2004.
By contrast, in neighbouring Niger, the World Food Programme appeal is now 57 per cent funded, with more money on the way, following intense media coverage over the last two weeks. Some 3.6 million people are facing a major food crisis in the country.
"Now that the media spotlight is focused on Niger, the world has finally started responding to the crisis there. But this is not just about Niger.This food crisis is affecting countries across West Africa, particularly Mali. The Mali government, international donors and the World Food Programme have started distributing food, but it is not enough. Donors have a window of opportunity. They can help to avert a major food crisis in Mali, but they must act now," said Natasha Kofoworola Quist, Oxfam Great Britain's Regional Director for West Africa.
Some 1.1 million people in Mali are at risk and, despite the efforts of the country's government, the World Food Programme and NGOs, the most remote nomadic communities are still not getting the help they desperately need. The most affected areas are Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal in the north of the country.
Oxfam's food support programme in the Gao region in northern Mali was launched in March and will benefit 50,000 people. Work has also been done to prepare people for the possibility of another locust invasion.
"Governments must fully fund the World Food Programme appeal for Mali immediately. Every moment that they delay, more lives are put at risk," said Quist.
In neighbouring Mauritania, where 1.6 million hectares of land and pasture were destroyed by locusts last year, 800,000 people are at risk - more than 25% of the population. The most affected regions are Aftout and Affolé, in the south eastern border region with Mali, and the Senegal River Valley in the south of the country. Oxfam's food support programme in Mauritania, which started in April, will help 40,000 people.
More than 500,000 people in Burkina Faso are in immediate need of food assistance particularly in the northern province of Oudalan which borders both Mali and Niger.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, call Clare Rudebeck in the Oxfam press office. +44 1865 47 2530 or +44 7775 931 265.