The British-based international charity Oxfam has warned that up to 13-million people in West and Central Africa are at risk of a food crisis brought on by a severe drought.
The agency has launched an emergency appeal to raise £23-million ($36.3-million) to aid more than 1-million of the most vulnerable people in the blighted region.
Oxfam warned that the crisis would escalate into a full scale humanitarian emergency if assistance is not offered immediately.
“Across Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal malnutrition rates hover between 10 and 15 percent, and in some areas rates have risen beyond the emergency threshold level of 15 percent,” Oxfam said.
“Over 1 million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.”
A “lethal mix” of drought, regional wars, high food prices and widespread poverty has conspired to create this debilitating crisis, Oxfam noted.
Food prices have spiked 25 to 50 percent over the past five years across the region – and they may climb by another 25 to 30 percent by this summer, placing even more people on the brink of starvation.
“Millions of people are on the threshold of a major crisis. All signs point to a drought becoming a catastrophe if nothing is done soon. The world cannot allow this to happen. A concerted aid effort is needed to stop tens of thousands dying due to international complacency,” said Mamadou Biteye, Oxfam’s Regional Director for West Africa in a statement.
“We witnessed last year the situation spiraling out of control in East Africa as the aid community failed to act swiftly. The worst can be avoided and thousands of lives will be saved if we act now. It’s that simple.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agricultural production in the Sahel region has plunged 25 percent from 2010 – in some countries like Chad and Mauritania, production has been cut by half.
BBC reported that an armed conflict between the government in Mali and Tuareg rebels is accentuating the crisis – more than 100,000 people have fled the violence in northern Mali for Niger, a country also in the throes of poverty and despair.