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U.N. Seeks Food Aid for Africa's Sahel Area

June 23, 2005|From Reuters

DAKAR, Senegal — Millions of people on the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert face severe food shortages unless donors provide more funds, the United Nations said Wednesday.

The U.N. World Food Program said it had received only a third of the $11 million it needs to fund emergency operations in Niger and Mali, two of the world's poorest nations, where drought and a locust plague have triggered a food crisis.

"If we have a bad harvest, we risk having millions of people affected and we will be headed toward catastrophe," Jamie Wickens, WFP's associate director of operations, said at a news conference in Senegal's capital, Dakar.

The next three months are vital, with $7.2 million needed immediately to ensure that subsistence farmers and their families in the arid band of savanna make it through to October, when harvesting starts again, WFP officials said.

Aid workers say about 3.6 million people are in need of food aid in Niger, the worst-hit nation in the Sahel region, which runs along the southern edge of the Sahara.

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