UN aid chiefs call for $725 million for drought-hit Sahel
(ROME) - United Nations aid chiefs meeting in Rome on Wednesday said the drought-stricken Sahel region of West Africa needed $725 million (552 million euros) this year, warning the situation was "urgent".
"Around 725 million dollars is what is assessed to be needed this year," Helen Clark, head of the aid agency UNDP, said after the meeting, which also included the EU's Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva.
The European Commission announced at the talks it was donating 30 million euros to support feeding programmes for one million children under the age of two and half a million pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers.
"We have a short time to act. Drought is on the way but it can also be avoided. We have two or three months. No more than that," said Jose Graziano da Silva, the director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
"This is a very conflicted region. Food insecurity can be one important factor to bring conflict so we also need to avoid this," he said.
Georgieva said: "If we are to be successful in the Sahel, we must address the needs today but in a way that makes the region more resistant."
The meeting was being hosted by the World Food Programme (WFP), which is aiming to provide assistance to nearly eight million people across the vast region including to Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Harvests have fallen by as much as 46 percent in Mauritania and Niger estimates that over 5.5 million people in the country are at risk.
In a joint statement, the UN and EU aid chiefs said there should be "an urgent scale-up" in relief efforts because of the combined effect of drought, high food prices, displacement and conflict in the region.
"The time for humanitarian action in the Sahel is now," he said.
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