THE ESCALATING humanitarian crisis in West Africa could claim more lives than the Asian Tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti - according to children's charity Plan International.
The Sahel region - which includes Niger and Burkina Faso - is struggling to cope with severe hunger and the added pressure of nearly half a million refugees fleeing fighting in Mali.
Plan International is calling for immediate funding to help save the lives of more than 1.5 million under fives who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
“The dual crises across the West African Sahel region-food and refugees-are positioned to claim more lives over time than the Asian Tsunami with 273,000 dead or the Haitian Earthquake with more than 217,000 dead," says Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director for Plan in West Africa.
"Death from the complications of hunger and malnutrition is a slow, painful process."
More than 18 million people across the region - half of whom are children - are affected by the food crisis.
Spiralling food prices, failed harvests and the fall-out of the conflict in Mali could mean the situation will continue to deteriorate until harvests in October.
Many families have been forced to sell their livestock to buy food, while others are eating seeds instead of saving them to plant for the next season.
“Plan’s response in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger focuses on the well-being of children, from the distribution of goods and food to the resumption of education and providing safe spaces for children in refugee camps," explains Coulibaly.
"The response requires tremendous resources, human and financial, and Plan needs the support of people around the world to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of children."
Plan is supporting children and their families across the region - in refugee camps and particularly vulnerable communities.
· Plan has built latrines in the Mentao camp, Soum province, to provide sanitation for 7,777 people.
· Plan will be supporting local authorities to hold summer classes for refugee children so they can continue their education
· Projects to support the food insecurity in Sanmatenga and Namentenga will begin in the coming weeks.
· Plan supports the internally displaced populations in the six communes of Bamako.
· Food has been distributed to 1,550 children and 4,482 families.
· More than 1,000 school children displaced in Kati received school kits to help them re-start their education.
· Plan is managing two refugee camps in partnership with the UN.
· Plan is providing clean water, food and assistance to refugees who have arrived with many herds of animals and are staying close to the border near the Ayourou camp.
· Through a partnership with the World Food Programme, Plan will be providing food and nutritional support will be given to communities in three regions: Louga, Thies and Saint Louis. 11,769 cases of severe acute malnutrition have been reported in children across this area.
For more information on Plan’s work or to make a donation call 0800 526 848 or visit www.plan-uk.org
Media Relations Officer
Plan UK | www.plan-uk.org
Direct Line: 0203 217 0257 | Switchboard: 0300 777 9777 / +44 (0)20 7608 1311 (Non-UK) | Mobile: 07964 296 431 | Skype: rose_planUK | Address: Finsgate 5-7 Cranwood Street, London EC1V 9LH
Notes to editors
1) Plan is a global children’s charity. We work with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. A future you would want for all children, your family and friends. For 75 years we’ve been taking action and standing up for every child’s right to fulfill their potential by:
· giving children a healthy start in life, including access to safe drinking water
· securing the education of girls and boys
· working with communities to prepare for and survive disasters
· inspiring children to take a lead in decisions that affect their lives
· enabling families to earn a living and plan for their children’s future.
We do what’s needed, where it’s needed most. We do what you would do. With your support children, families and entire communities have the power to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.
2) Plan UK is a member of The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 14 leading humanitarian aid agencies.
3) We work with children in 50 of the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future.
4) Plan was founded by British journalist John Langdon-Davies in 1937 to rescue orphans and other vulnerable children from the Spanish Civil War.
6) We have over 114,000 sponsors in the UK, generating £25 million a year, and 1.5 million sponsored children worldwide.
7) Sponsorship starts at £15-a-month and, rather than going to individual children and their families, funds projects to improve schooling, health, nutrition and livelihoods across communities.