Oxfam welcomes European aid for West African food crisis but warns more is urgently needed

Oxfam website. International aid agency Oxfam welcomes the European Commission’s new aid package of 24 million euros (USD$30 million) for Niger and other countries in the Sahel region of West Africa, which was announced today in Brussels. The announcement demonstrates the renewed commitment of the European Commission to help alleviate the suffering of more than 10 million people affected by the current food crisis in West Africa, but Oxfam warns that more needs to be done by EU governments and other donors to avert disaster in the drought affected region.

Alongside the recent visit to Niger by UN chief for humanitarian affairs John Holmes, the decision by the European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva to visit the country this week, sends a strong signal to the international community that more aid is needed for the region. The aid agency considers the slow response by international donors as unacceptable and stresses that the urgent needs of cattle herders must be addressed across the whole region, from Mali to Chad.

Millions of people need urgent assistance in Niger. The government has requested 146 million euros from the international community to organize nationally an adequate response to this crisis. So far the government has only received 52 percent of this appeal. In Chad, where two million people face severe food shortages, UN agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have only received 20 percent of the money they need from donors.

The hunger gap season, a traditionally fragile period before the next harvest is starting now in the Sahel, and food stocks and fodder are insufficient in many countries to meet the needs of the population, and the livestock.

Mamoudou Hassane, from Mooriben, a farmer organization partner of Oxfam in Niger, said: “The situation on the ground is deteriorating quickly. Efforts are underway but knowing the extent and duration of the disaster, they are far from what is required.”

Mamadou Biteye, the Head of Oxfam’s humanitarian response in West Africa, said “The fresh cash provided by the European Commission today is an important contribution towards managing this crisis. But with 10 million people in urgent need of assistance across several countries, EU governments must follow suit if they’re serious about avoiding a disastrous loss of life across the Sahel region.”

Oxfam has used $4.5 million of its reserves to launch its humanitarian operation in the Sahel region, but needs $17.5 million to fund its work across the region. The agency has launched recently in different cities and villages some activities: A cash for work program, animal feeding distribution, de-stocking which means buying weak animals at above market price and making the meat available to local population, and food distribution targeting the most vulnerable people.

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