Aid Groups Warn of Looming Food Crisis in West Africa

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations World Food Program and other aid agencies are warning of an impending food crisis in five West African countries.

The agencies estimate more than 11 million people across the region face food shortages, poverty and malnutrition because of drought and poor harvests. The groups this week urged donors to act quickly to prevent the crisis from turning into a full-scale famine.

The most vulnerable countries include Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali. Officials say other areas of Africa's Sahel region also appear to be headed for a widespread food crisis because of poor harvests and low food reserves.

The World Food Program's director in Niger, Denise Brown, said already people are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods.

“They are asking us for some assistance so that they can stay in their homes, in their villages, work in their fields, maintain their families and keep their life going.''

Oxfam spokesman Charles Antoine Bambara said there is still time to avoid a food crisis similar to one that took place in 2010, if officials act now.

“The situation is grave and serious but all is not yet lost, if the community mobilizes themselves quickly, if the concerned governments also mobilize themselves quickly and come together, we can contain the crisis to avoid the scale of the food crisis that we had in 2010, but who knows it could even be worse, but we don't wish for it to happen.''


Officials say the early warning allows governments and communities enough time to prevent the crisis from growing worse. But they add long term solutions are needed to break the cycle of food insecurity, such as investment in sustainable agriculture and programs to reduce poverty.