Red Cross team fly to Niger

A British Red Cross team is flying out to Niger in West Africa today to support a major operation to save millions of people suffering severe hunger in the region.

The team of three British Red Cross logistics experts and one information officer is heading to Niger where it is feared that one in ten children will die unless they get urgent help.

Almost eight million people in West Africa face imminent starvation because of a combination of drought and a locust plague, which destroyed last year's harvest.

The British Red Cross launched a West Africa Crisis appeal last week to assist people in the affected countries of Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

Niger - the second poorest country in the world - has suffered the worst effects of the food crisis, with 350,000 children suffering acute malnutrition.

The logistics Emergency Response Unit will coordinate the distribution of Red Cross relief items such as food, seeds, cooking utensils and medical equipment that will be delivered to Niger.

The charter flight leaving Bristol today carries all the equipment the team needs to set up a mobile office and distribution hub.

Peter Pierce (52), the team leader, said: "Our main function will be to receive, store and forward on all the relief items that will be arriving. It's difficult to know what to expect and we will undoubtedly face challenges but it is vital that we transport everything off the planes and to people in need as fast as possible."

Miranda Bradley (31), from London, who will be working as a systems delegate added: "The key thing now is to actually get there and evaluate the needs so we can really start to make a difference. Our main objective is going to be making sure the food reaches people as quickly as possible. Logistically, the process of transporting the food could raise challenges as it is now the wet season and the region is largely desert."