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.
Last week, British actor Bonnie Wright, best known for her role in the Harry Potter films, travelled to Senegal with Oxfam to draw attention to the growing humanitarian crisis in the country and to the wider food crisis across the Sahel region of West Africa.
More than 18 million people in nine countries across the region are threatened by food shortages, including 1 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. With the next harvests not due until September and October, the region is now entering the worst of the crisis.
In Senegal there are 850,000 people suffering from severe food shortages. Despite the appearance of green, lack of rain last year in southern parts of the country led to a poor harvest with people exhausting their stock of food before the planting season had begun. With the lean season bought forward by two months, there are now three further months with a total absence of food.
As the crisis hits its peak, actress Bonnie Wright visited Kedougou, an area in Southern Senegal where Oxfam are working, to meet vulnerable families who are now counting on humanitarian assistance as their main means of survival.
Bonnie Wright, said: “When I arrived in Senegal it was hard to see that this was a country where thousands of people are suffering from extreme hunger. Where you may expect the landscape to be dry and dusty, in fact everywhere was green and lush. I quickly learnt however that this green was hiding the reality, a deep seated hunger that was so present in the lives of the families I spoke to”.
In the Kolda and Kedougou regions in the South of Senegal, Oxfam has launched a program to distribute cash to families that are most vulnerable, giving them a chance to buy food in local markets, use for health care or for planting seeds.
Ms. Wright continued: “From what I learnt from the people I met, cash transfers enable families to spend the money in the way they need, providing longevity. I hope that with public support Oxfam can continue to help people in these moments and tackle the underlying causes of the crisis to help prevent them happening again.
Mamadou Biteye, who is leading Oxfam’s emergency response in West Africa said: “This trip with Bonnie Wright came at the time that we really need to raise awareness of the extreme situation in Senegal and across the whole of the Sahel region. Such support is vital for us to step up a gear, stop people starving now, and help build them a better future.”
Oxfam has launched an appeal and is aiming to reach 1.8 million people with emergency assistance across Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and the Gambia.
Notes to editors
The UN estimates that across the Sahel:
- More than 18 million people are in need of assistance
- Over 1 million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition
- $1.64 billion is needed to tackle the crisis 2012 Sahel crisis. So far $792 million has been committed, according to the UN's Financial Tracking Service.
- The two biggest donors to the Sahel Food Crisis to date have been the European Commission and United States.
Photos from Bonnie Wright’s trip available here: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=11721&k=26f7fb2d32
Film from Bonnie Wright’s trip available here on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csEiUF2fk2M
VNR is also available on AFrame: https://app.aframe.com/links/d906e8b387bf02d26d095aae51b17b63
For more information, access to pictures, hi res film or case studies please contact: Claire Wilkinson, Oxfam Press Office +44 (0)1865 473648 | +44 (0)7825 196769| email@example.com
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