Emergency in Mali and Niger
As a result of severe drought and a recent plague of locusts, the rates of malnutrition and lack of access to grazing land and clean water have reached dangerously high levels in the two West African countries. According to Amador Goméz, Technical Director of ACF-Spain, "The nutritional state of the population is worrisome. We have confirmed that more than one in three children younger than five years old suffers from acute malnutrition. At this time when the most vulnerable families have limited access to grazing land for their animals, it is imperative that the international community get involved as soon as possible."
But little help has come. Although Mali is on the list of countries being considered for debt relief at the G8 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, next week, and both Mali and Niger are classified as among the poorest countries in the world by the United Nations, there has been almost no response to the call for emergency assistance. In an unprecedented and worrisome development, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) issued an appeal to the international community six months ago for $11 million to ease the food shortages, but received no response. A second appeal has brought in only 35 percent of the WFP's original request.
In an area already suffering from chronic poverty and a lack of food, the drought and destruction of grazing land have escalated the situation for the population to what the WFP is calling near-famine levels. Action Against Hunger has already put its emergency intervention programs into place in both northern Mali and Niger, but has emphasized the need for real long-term commitment to revitalizing the area, not just short-term relief. "We're hoping that the international community that reacted so quickly and generously to the tragedy of the tsunami will be able to step up to the plate again," said Cathy Skoula, Executive Director of ACF-USA.