Tuesday August 16, 2005
The International Red Cross is rapidly establishing a critical food pipeline in West Africa to help meet the needs of more than half a million people - including tens of thousands of children - who are threatened by severe food shortages in some of the world's poorest countries.
In the Sahel region of West Africa a potentially fatal combination of drought and a locust plague has destroyed harvests and left millions of people at risk of severe food shortages across Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
The CEO of Australian Red Cross, Mr Robert Tickner said the Red Cross in Australia had so far pledged $200,000 in donations for the purchase of vitamin and mineral enriched flour called Unimix and cooking oil. These supplies will help meet the growing needs of approximately 23,400 children under the age of 5 targeted by Red Cross in Niger, the worst affected country in the region.
'The desperately needed food and oil will be purchased urgently to help support the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Supplementary Feeding Centres in Niger for the coming 3 months,' Mr Tickner said.
'Australians can be assured that their donations to the Red Cross appeal will make a real difference on the ground.'
Mr Tickner also highlighted the considerable logistical challenges that the Red Cross faces in carrying out its huge humanitarian response.
'The needs are massive. There is such a huge focus on Niger now, but we have to be careful that other countries in the region such as Burkina Faso and Mauritania are not forgotten. In Mali alone about one million people are believed to be in urgent need of food aid. Australians have once again responded generously and Red Cross will continue to conduct assessments in affected areas and react swfitly to emerging needs,' said Mr Tickner.
In Mali, Red Cross is planning to distribute locally sourced food including Unimix, seeds and eventually animal fodder to tide over families until rains restore grazing land. Supplies have been identified in Bamako for about 252 tonnes of rice as well as 12,000 litres of oil and nine tonnes of sugar.
According to the UN, 3.6 million people are directly affected by the food crisis in Niger. Over the next 6 months Red Cross will provide assistance to some 532,000 people across the Sahel region of West Africa.
To donate to the Niger Emergency 2005 Appeal:
* visit www.redcross.org.au to make a secure online donation
* Call 1800 811 700
* Send a cheque to GPO Box 9949 marked 'Niger Appeal' in your capital city
The funds raised through this appeal will be used in one of three ways:
- to support the relief and rehabilitation activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Partners in the affected areas, through the emergency appeal
- to fund any deployment of specialist aid workers to the region to assist in the International Red Cross response
- to support any Australian Red Cross programs of assistance in the affected areas.
NOTE: Australian Red Cross will not deduct more than 10% of any donation for an international appeal to cover its own costs. Should the funds raised exceed the amount required to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of the people in the affected areas, Australian Red Cross will use any excess funds to help people affected by emergencies within the same region of the world.
For details more details visit our special section on the appeal (see link below)