The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world's largest humanitarian agency, has started a relief fund for the famine-threatened Sahel region of West Africa. Unless humanitarian aid is rushed in, eight countries which make up the Sahel region are at risk of mass starvation.
The charity Save the Children has likewise started a relief fund for West Africa, urging the world to respond before mass famine takes hold. Save the Children warns, "The greatest tragedy is that the world sees disasters such as this coming but fails to prevent them."
Map of the Sahel region of West Africa. Shaded areas can quickly descend into famine if humanitarian aid does not arrive. (map courtesy USAID Famine Early Warning System)
Individuals can donate to these funds and help save lives in the eight Sahel countries which have suffered a massive drought: Niger, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Chad, and Cameroon.
Mothers and their babies wait in line in a maternal health care centre in Niamey, Niger, where WFP provides supplementary feeding for moderately malnourished children under three years of age. (WFP/Rein Skellerud)
Niamey, Niger, maternal health care center: a child eats his ration of Supplementary Plumpy - a nutritious peanut-based product packed with vitamins, minerals, and milk proteins. If children receive this food, they will survive the crisis. Aid agencies are low on funding to provide the food. (WFP/Rein Skellerud)
Already children in West Africa have perished from malnutrition. The World Food Programme has warned for months that the hunger crisis in West Africa could reach epic proportions during the summer. WFP says, "Malnutrition rates, particularly affecting children under two, are generally high in the Sahel, and usually rise during the lean season, leading to significant peaks in acute malnutrition and mortality."