Friday September 16, 2005
It's nearly two months since Red Cross launched an urgent global appeal to assist millions of people threatened with chronic food shortages in the Sahel region of West Africa. Yet to date the appeal has raised only $5.9 million - $12.1 million short of what's needed to assist 532,000 people for up to six months.
As a contrast, in just a fortnight the world has shown enormous generosity in helping raise hundreds of millions of dollars to assist people rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina in the USA.
The CEO of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner applauded the generosity of Australians who dug deep to help those who suffered terrible losses in the wake of Katrina. But he urged Australians not to forget the people in 'silent crises' such as those in West Africa who are also in need of critical humanitarian assistance.
'The generosity of Australians never ceases to amaze me. In just two weeks public support has helped us raise $280,000 for the survivors of the hurricane. But it's taken three times as long to raise a similar figure for our Niger Emergency Appeal,' Mr Tickner said.
Australians however have reason to feel proud. Australian Red Cross ranks third in per capita cash contributions to the global appeal for the food crisis in West Africa.
'Make no mistake, Australians have yet again shown their compassion in supporting the Niger Appeal. But so far the international appeal is only 30 per cent covered. And I want to urge the community to dig deep if Red Cross is to reach the target of assisting 532,000 people over the next six months,' said Mr Tickner.
In West Africa, a devastating combination of drought and a locust plague has destroyed vital harvests across the Sahel, leaving up to 8 million people in danger of chronic food shortages.
In the affected region, Red Cross has already reached some 320,000 people (approximately 60 per cent of our target figure). In Niger, 272,500 vulnerable people including 19,300 malnourished children have been reached through nutrition programs run by 56 Red Cross centres in five provinces. In Burkino Faso, Red Cross has distributed seeds and food items to 44,700 people, while in Mali, we have provided food aid to 11,000 people.
'Crucially we're trying to avert a massive disaster in West Africa. But Red Cross can't do it alone. We need the support of the community. Please help us reach our target as soon as possible, to deliver vital food aid to those in desperate need,' said Mr Tickner.