As the international community acknowledges the grave food crisis in Niger and Burkina Faso, CAFOD partners are already helping those at risk of severe hunger and starvation.
Last year the region suffered a plague of locusts that destroyed much of the season's crops. That disaster was followed by a severe drought and so the traditional "hungry season" that comes in the months before the next harvest, due in the autumn, is now catastrophic.
Now the United Nations estimates that up to 3.6 million people are affected by the food crisis - with around 150,000 children at risk of death.
Early warnings from the United Nations were ignored by the international community. The first appeal for financial help last November elicited virtually no response.
Now the crisis has grown to frightening proportions with serious and immediate risk of widespread loss of life, particularly amongst the most vulnerable of the population.
Food for work
Caritas Niger is responding to the emergency with a food for work programme in which those able to work can earn food for their families and distributing food to the most vulnerable. It is also providing seeds for planting and fodder for domestic animals.
The area affected by the food crisis is extremely poor and most people do not have any savings to see them through a severe food shortage. The cost of food has rocketed and the price of cattle has plummeted leaving families with emaciated animals that are now dying.
Traditional coping mechanisms of surviving the hungry season such as selling cattle or eating wild food have run out.
Waste of life
CAFOD director Chris Bain said; "Once again lives will be lost needlessly to hunger. It is completely unacceptable that people in the 21st century cannot afford to eat everyday and it is a moral outrage that people should die of starvation due to the lack of a few million dollars.
"Due to the lack of prompt international response to the initial situation in Niger and Burkina Faso, CAFOD partners together with other aid agencies working in the region are now facing working with people facing a needless disaster.
"This waste of precious life is exactly what the Make Poverty History campaign is working to end forever."
CAFOD has given £100,000 to partners in Burkina Faso and Niger and is constantly monitoring the situation.
For further information please contact Fiona Callister on 020 7326 5558 or 07867 908720 or firstname.lastname@example.org