A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Director hopes to raise regional awareness, funds to help 18 million people in 8 nations
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Emirati director and Oxfam supporter Ali F. Mostafa has swapped the high-wire drama and cultural mash-ups of his highly successful City of Life and Classified films for a new short video in an entirely different vein: an up-close and personal look at one of the most pressing humanitarian challenges in the world today.
The food crisis in the African Sahel region that is endangering more than 18 million people across Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Gambia, Burkina Faso, northern Nigeria and Chad is the focus of Mostafa's new work. The one-minute clip is one of several Oxfam initiatives to raise awareness and funding particularly from the Middle East to help affected people in the West and Central African nations. Mostafa has supported Oxfam before, in 2011 for instance he went on a five-day trip to Mali to support Oxfam's projects in providing basic education to children there.
The Sahel's vulnerability stems from erratic rainfall that has led to poor food harvests, high food prices and water shortages, exacerbated by chronic poverty and deprivation and, in some areas, by domestic conflict and displacement. Early warning systems across the region earlier this year cautioned the West and Central Africa nations would face a repeat of previous food crises in 2005, 2008 and 2010, the last of which affected more than 10 million people. Those fears are now a reality.
Mostafa said: "People in Mali are running out of food just like those in Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Chad. While the world looks the other way, more than 18 million people are going hungry. Children will die in huge numbers if we don't act now. The worst can be avoided if we all pull in the same direction."
The director and the aid agency are looking to existing donors and also new ones from governments, institutions and corporates particularly in the Middle East to commit funds for emergency and relief work. They are also looking to individuals in the region to spread awareness and encourage high-level involvement.
Last month, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 18.4 million people in the Sahel are vulnerable to the effects of the food crisis, from more than 713,000 in the Gambia to over 6.4 million in Niger. OCHA also estimated that over $1.5 billion is needed to address current needs - but only half of the money has been mobilized to date.
Oxfam, the global development and aid agency, must raise at least $53 million (AED 193 million) urgently to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to 1.2 million people in the Sahel. So far, it has raised half its target.
"We are at a crucial point for aid to the Sahel,¨ said Oxfam Chief Executive Barbara Stocking. "For many people, the situation is already desperate. It is important to remember that droughts are natural, but hunger is man-made. The Sahel will always suffer from droughts, but need not suffer from hunger if the right actions are taken. It is not too late to respond, but we must act quickly. Delays will not only cost lives, it will also cost donors more money in the long run in rehabilitation and development."
"Thanks to the early warning systems, we knew about this coming crisis earlier than ever before, and governments in the region have recognised the problems. Now they need the support and focus of the humanitarian community. The world needs to act now and not let history repeat itself in the Sahel."
Delays and funding shortfalls could result in millions of people being left without food, clean water and vital assistance. Oxfam operates both emergency intervention and long-term sustainability programs in the Sahel region, including: in Chad, targeted food distribution, cash for work programs, agricultural and animal health support; in Burkina Faso, refugee assistance and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) campaigns; in Mauritania, vegetable gardens, refugee programs and water-borne disease eradication; in Niger, cash for work to families in need, restoration of cereal banks and water points; education and water services for refugees and host communities; in Senegal, seed banks, rehabilitation of community wells and farmer support; and in the Gambia, cash transfers for food, seeds and hygiene promotion.
For take action visit: http://www.oxfam.org/en/getinvolved/actnow/sahel2012-yes
For more detail on Oxfam's response and reports on the Sahel crisis, please visit: http://www.oxfam.org/sahel.
Notes to editors
For more information, please contact:
Hiba Al Hafidh
Tel: +971 4 2525905
Mob: +971 56 1151755