Oxfam warns of West Africa drought 'catastrophe'

Fetching water in drought stricken South of Mauritania. Feb 2012 Drought has hit a huge swathe of the Sahel region

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Urgent action is needed to stop drought in West Africa's Sahel region turning into a humanitarian disaster affecting 13 million people, Oxfam says.

The charity says the international community waited too long to respond to famine in East Africa last year.

Oxfam has launched a £23m ($36m) emergency appeal to help reach more than a million of the most vulnerable.

A BBC correspondent says refugees fleeing fighting in northern Mali are adding to the problem.

Launching its appeal, Oxfam said that malnutrition rates across Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal are hovering between 10% and 15%, and in some areas have risen beyond the emergency threshold level of 15%.

It says that more than one million children in the Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition.

In parts of Chad, Oxfam says, some villagers are digging up ant hills to gather grain that the ants have stored.

The agency says that drought, high food prices, severe poverty and regional conflict are causing the crisis.

"Millions of people are on the threshold of a major crisis," said Mamadou Biteye, Oxfam Regional Director for West Africa.

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"All signs point to a drought becoming a catastrophe if nothing is done soon. The world cannot allow this to happen. A concerted aid effort is needed to stop tens of thousands dying due to international complacency."

He added: "We witnessed last year the situation spiralling out of control in East Africa as the aid community failed to act swiftly. The worst can be avoided and thousands of lives will be saved if we act now. It's that simple."

BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge says that recent fighting between rebels and the army in northern Mali has caused more than 100,000 people to flee their homes - half of them crossing into Niger and other countries that are already hard-pressed.

In January, Oxfam and Save the Children said that thousands of people in East Africa died needlessly from famine last year because the international community failed to heed early warnings.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Hopefully when the cost of producing solar panels falls and it becomes economically viable, the Africans could team up with western technology companies to establish vast solar energy farms in the Sahara desert. The green power that these would produce could be sold at profit to benefit the African people as well as the west. Joint ventures like this could be the way forward for Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    It wasn't long ago that it was common for families in this country to have at least 7 children. Now with the survival of our children more or less assured, we choose to have 1-2, we know the chances are good that they will survive & having less children allows us to give a better start in life to those we have.

    This is the key to population control, that & better education regards birth control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    My realist side fights with my compassionate side on these issues.
    The images of acute suffering battling with the knowledge that the few £s I can spare will save perhaps one or two kids ... until the next famine/war/???

    Everyone has to choose how much they can/want to give if anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Nothing seems to change in this area of the world, as reports like this have been the same for 50+ years. We contribute to help but now I wonder who we are really helping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    334Sidney Monroe

    Population growth has dramatically decreased here in proportion to a higher standard of living & falling infant mortality rates.

    Poor countries have many kids to compensate, as many will perish. They have no welfare state, so have to rely on their children looking after them in old age.

    If survival is assured, a natural decrease in birth rates occurs, just look around you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Re : 330.JamesStGeorge

    "That will be why they are talking of probable water restrictions due to the drought over two winters leaving the reservoirs very low then will it?"

    Water restrictions are only happening because the idiot local councils sold many of the reservoirs off to housing developers ! We have plenty of rain here but badly managed infrastructure !

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Oh, dear, meant to type 'less meat and fewer 'exotic' fruits and veg would help to increase self sufficiency in food in the UK'. Two percent of the pop working in agriculture with a 70 odd percent rate of s. sufficiency is still pretty good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    People here state that much of the aid we give gets spent on arms, I don't doubt this is true.

    However, who is actually supplying them with these arms & making massive profits in the process. The justification from our leaders is that the arms industry generates large profits for the country & keeps a lot of people in jobs.


  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Check out the next comment on the editor's picks. Third World people have to have lots of kids and there is no point in telling them otherwise. Don't forget the West is to blame for their weather so we have to send them money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.


    How do you feel about being part of a greedy western population when are neighbours in other countries are starving to death?"

    Just fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Re : 327.Squiz of Islington
    "why then do Third World immigrants to this country still keep bashing them out at a rate of half a dozen each ?"

    You'll probably find this stops after a couple of generations. Cultural behaviour does not change overnight. The 2nd & 3rd generation children of immigrants will essentially be "UK naturalised" and will not have the socio-economic pressures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Yes, the UK self sufficiency in food has gone down from the 80's high of 95% to around the low 70s % - but in part it's thought that this is due to the changing tastes - les meat and fewer 'exotic' fruits. Anyway, sounds here like the right wingers are going to stop breeding in order to halt population growth. Good on 'em, in a generation, they'll be gone. Top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.


    ##We are not short of food and water.##

    That will be why they are talking of probable water restrictions due to the drought over two winters leaving the reservoirs very low then will it?

    We do not feed ourselves, we are overpopulated entirely due to immigration incidentally, so we are short of food too, we just buy up other people's fortunately! For now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Spend our Half our defence budget on the NHS and the other half on a global poverty relief force.

    Who's going to pick on the country that works so hard to help others?

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    I'm reposting to show ppl what the British Bolshevik Coorporation thought was worthy of moderation:

    293. You've put that a lot more eloquently than I could. Good post. I'd hope, for points 2 and 3 at least something could be done.

    305. I agree with you. I implied in a previous post that we have too much and got marked down. People were on HYS the other day claiming that.. etc..

  • Comment number 327.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Re : 320.cliff edge
    " the old saying " give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" cannot be any truer."

    You're right there - shame no one told that to the European and Russian trawling fleets that are scooping up all the fish from the African coast, How can the African fisherman in his tiny boat stop that ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Watch this space. Insects are going to be the new foodstuffs of the human race. With the massive human population the theory goes that we will no longer be able to grow meat or have the vast expanses of grain praries with the ever-decreasing soil resources. Insects require considerably less resources to grow and will be a staple for many people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    My comment at 309 was ligitimate BBC. It did not break house rules and it was utterly inoffensive, which post 316 will confirm. I don't understand your moderation of harmless comments. There's been borderline hatred posted on this board that you have allowed to stand.

    A disgrace.

    I've been talking Africa's problems, and the need for more radical thinking on population, famine and education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Sorry, no interest from me. They could sell their guns, stop fighting and start farming. I am sure our politicians will give lots of our taxes to help the corrupt African politicians and pay the luxury salaries of aid officials.


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