Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Ottawa – The Canadian government has received much praise from the global children’s charity, Plan International, for its CDN$10 million initial contribution to help children and their families affected by the Sahel Food Crisis.
The contribution comes just days before the UK government convenes a Hunger Summit at the end of the 2012 Olympic Games in London at which leaders attending the Olympic Games are being urged to tackle global hunger.
“The generosity by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a significant step to help us tackle this problem and if we act now we can save many lives by the 2016 Olympics,” says Tjipke Bergsma, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Plan International.
About four million children are estimated to be at risk of malnutrition – one million of which are at risk of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition which leads to death if not treated. In addition, the conflict in northern Mali has resulted in more than a quarter-million refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries with the number topping the 100,000 mark in Burkina Faso. The country is bracing for at least 200,000 refugees in the coming months as reports are rife about possible military action.
The $10 million is a “down payment” by the Canadian government which has pledged to match all donations made to Plan Canada and other members of the Humanitarian Coalition and other specified relief agencies between August 7 and September 30.
“We laud the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for being a humanitarian leader,” says Bergsma. “The making of this crisis is not just another hunger season in the Sahel. Many external factors have created a complex emergency. Had these other factors not been present, there would have been no food crisis, but there is and the children in the Sahel need our help,” he adds.
In remarks delivered on his behalf during a news conference at Plan Canada offices, Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino, says that "right now, millions of women, men and children in the Sahel are suffering from hunger and severe malnutrition. This is absolutely unacceptable. With generosity from Canadians, we can do more to respond to this crisis and support people in dire need."
The situation could worsen because of a looming threat of locust infestation– the worst since 2005 – because funding for pest control of the breeding grounds in Libya have dried up since the Arab Spring.
Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada says that the donations by the government and people of Canada “means we’ll be able to feed more families, provide more clean water and other health services to stem cholera, as well as provide more children with support and safe places to learn and play while their world shifts around them.”
Plan International is delivering emergency relief in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon and Senegal.
Plan International has appealed for US$14.7 million of which $7.2 million have been committed by donors.
Further details please contact:
Abigail Brown, Media and PR Manager, Plan Canada
Tel: +416 920 1654 ext.277
Terry Ally, Press Officer, Emergencies and Disasters, Plan International HQ, UK,
Tel: +44 (0) 1483 733 337
Notes to the editor
- The Sahel Food Crisis is a complex emergency because the annual ‘lean season’ has been worsened by high food prices and conflict from Mali to Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire to Libya:
- Conflict in the Mahgreb, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire has seen migrant workers from the Sahel flee back home. A prime source of income was lost;
- Food is available on the market but prices have increased. Prices this year compared to the same period last year is more than 100% in Mali, 70+% in Burkina and 42% in Niger;
- Conflict in northern Mali has displaced hundreds of thousands. More than quarter-million have fled over the borders of neighbouring countries with the majority (107,929) in Burkina Faso. Other large numbers are in Niger and Mauritania. The refugees have gone into areas that are already experiencing food and water shortages and limited pastures. For every one refugee there is on average five heads of cattle which collectively can dry up an irrigation reservoir in just a few days;
- The breeding grounds of locusts are in the border areas of Libya and Algeria. When the Gadaffi government was in office, they provided a lot of money for insect control in locust breeding grounds but since the Arab Spring and events following it the finance for the pest control has dried up. The continuing insecurity on these borders also prevents pest control activities. We are now seeing a different impact of the Arab Spring spilling into the Sahel in the form of locust swarms;
- A survey in southern Mali, conducted by the Child Protection sub-cluster of which Plan is a member, shows that parents are taking children out of school and children are leaving home to find work;
- An analysis by Plan International of why this is a food crisis is available online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/100920322/An-Analysis-of-the-Sahel-Food-Crisis
Founded 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations. www.plan-international.org