accessibility & help

West Africa remains in need of assistance to curb effects of food shortages

September 20, 2012
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Henry Makiwa 020 7877 7479 / 
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Six months on since the launch of a public appeal, the British Red Cross is today calling for a fresh injection of donations to address the continuing humanitarian crisis affecting seven drought-stricken West African countries.

There are still 19 million people across the West Africa region at real risk of hunger today, due to a combination of factors that have undermined their ability to feed themselves since the last harvest. Factors including irregular rainfall, a locust infestation and the fighting in northern Mali, have led to large population movements, placing an extra strain on precarious natural resources. 

“Thanks to the generosity of the public and our supporters, the Red Cross movement has been responding to the crisis to reach vulnerable families with food and income support, but needs further help to fund its efforts,” said Barry Armstrong, the British Red Cross disaster response manager.

“Rain has arrived but seed shortages and cholera outbreaks could have a negative impact on the affected communities. People in this region are mostly agro-pastoralists - heavily reliant on rain for agricultural produce and animal fodder – and are not as yet able to function effectively to take advantage of the rains when they have to be looking for food,” he added.

At least 19 million people living in the Sahel region of West Africa - a band of dry, drought-ridden territory that stretches from Senegal on the coast across to Chad in central Africa – are in the throes of a food crisis. Although the onset of the rain season in the past few weeks bodes well for a potentially healthy 2013 harvest, the livelihoods of most communities and families have been weakened immensely by the drought in the past year.

Agro-pastoralist communities and families in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia and Burkina Faso have endured erratic rains over a number of years leading to their livelihoods being undermined, while security concerns in the region have compounded the situation.

Armstrong said, “Timing is crucial here. Our ability to support the people of the Sahel now will enable them to plant crops and look after their livestock, thereby increasing chances of their recovery in the future. 

“There are still millions of people at real risk of hunger, while hundreds of thousands more have been displaced by fighting and are unable to return home because of a combination of escalating conflict. Across the region, the Red Cross have been distributing seeds and agricultural support for planting; as well as essential food to the most vulnerable. The Red Cross have also set up livelihoods and cash for work programmes within communities,” he added.

To support the British Red Cross West Africa Food Crisis Appeal visit or call 08450 532 003 
The charity has raised over £190 000 since the launch of its appeal, and is hoping to raise more. 

One of the most affected regions is northern Mali, where half a million people need aid to cope with the escalating conflict, rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care.

Armstrong said, “The fighting in Mali has come on top of the food crisis so the population in northern Mali is increasingly desperate. Insecurity and sporadic clashes have greatly limited economic activity; and many are displaced within Mali and in neighbouring countries.

“The Red Cross movement, as one of the few organisations able to access them, has undertaken a major food distribution drive reaching160,000 people, while extra funds are required to reach three times this number, to 500,000 people."

Since early April, several armed groups and government forces have wrestled for control of the northern half of Mali. 

Elsewhere across the Sahel, floods in countries such Senegal and Niger; as well as insect infestations, cholera outbreaks and high food prices, are combining to compound the region’s recovery ahead of the next planting season.


Notes to editors

The British Red Cross has new video footage and pictures from West Africa. Please click on the hyperlinks to download the material.
For press enquires, b-roll footage, images or to arrange interviews, please contact Henry Makiwa on 
To support the British Red Cross East Africa Food Crisis Appeal visit or call 0845 054 7200.

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies  in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on  with their lives.

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