EU ups Africa drought aid, more needed


The European Union sent an extra €24 million ($29 million) of aid to help millions facing hunger across the Sahel region of West Africa, but an aid agency said much more was needed to avert a crisis.

Failed rains have left over 10 million people at risk in Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and other countries in the semi-arid belt stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara.
“It is clear the situation in the Sahel is getting worse,” EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement, adding the emergency aid would be used for food programmes, treating child malnutrition and other healthcare.

Niger last month forecast that 3.3 million people, or 22 percent of its population, would face severe food shortages, with a further 3.8 million vulnerable to a lesser degree.

Aid workers are already reporting tell-tale signs of food shortages, such as a growing migration of families from the countryside to cities, and increases in the number of child beggars on the streets.

Georgieva is due to travel to Niger later this week, the latest top international aid official to visit the region.

Despite the rising expressions of concern, Niger has only received around half the €146 million it is seeking to tackle the crisis, while a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) request for $11.8 million for Chad has yielded $2 million.

British aid agency Oxfam welcomed the EU cash but urged European capitals to make further contributions.

Life in the Sahel is among the most precarious in the world but this year’s food shortages are seen hitting especially hard.

UNICEF expects this year to treat 378 000 children for severe malnutrition and 1.2 million for moderate malnutrition in Niger alone, compared to a typical annual total of 300 000 cases in the country in recent years.