Thursday, July 22, 2010

African Nations Facing Food Crisis and Millions Are Starving

Click to read full story from CNN

United Nations (CNN) -- U.N. officials are pleading for immediate economic assistance for four African countries where people are facing malnutrition in the wake of a drought last year.

The coming weeks ahead will be the toughest for these countries in the Sahel -- the stretch of African countries including Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania -- as they make their way into the rainy season and scrape by with the little food they have since last year's harvest, officials said.

Humanitarian agencies and relief organizations pushed for continued economic support from the international community on behalf of the drought-ridden African countries at the United Nations on Tuesday.

"The levels of food insecurity have begun to spiral out of control and affect a number of countries across the region," U.N. Under-Secretary-General John Holmes said.

"Niger is the center of this crisis, it is a country by far the worst affected, some 7 million people are suffering from severe or moderate food insecurity and that's almost fifty percent of the country's population," Holmes said.

Over 10 million people in the Sahel are at risk for food shortages, according to the U.N., and their situation is unlikely to improve until the coming harvest in October.

"We're in the long stretch between last year's harvest and the one coming up," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Programme, via telephone from Niger. "We have now six weeks until it is agreed we will be out of the severe danger zone and the ramp-up has to happen not in a few weeks but now, before this very difficult time," Sheeran said.

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