The western Sahel, a region at the southern edge of the Sahara desert, is facing a possible food crisis. Late and irregular rainfall and plagues of birds, locusts and other pests have combined to decimate the harvests of poor farmers and made pasture scarce for herders, according to Mark Fried, head of public policy at Oxfam Canada.
Early-warning systems in the region, funded by Canada and other donors, have predicted the crisis in time to help prevent it. Detecting it early may not be enough, though. Fried suggests similar early warning systems were in place in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia last year, but donors didn't come forward until people started dying.
The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, is also monitoring the situation in the Sahel, and echoing Fried's call for donations to start as soon as possible. UNICEF says it needs $100-million this year to save the lives of 500,000 children in the region. David Gressly, the regional director of UNICEF in West Africa, told the Globe and Mail, "everyone has learned a lesson from the Horn of Africa famine. We're acting much more quickly this time. We're going to react in time and save a large number of lives." You can visit Oxfam's donation page here, and UNICEF's here.
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