Christian agencies act on West Africa drought crisis - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
July 22, 2005

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Christian agencies act on West Africa drought crisis

-22/07/05

As international concern mounts about the drought in Niger, which threatens millions of lives, the UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has pledged to continue investing in short- and long-term solutions. Tearfund is also involved in local assessment and support.

Though media attention has focussed on one country, the problem impacts a wider swathe of West Africa. A locust invasion swept across the Northern Sahel region in 2004, destroying crops in Niger, Senegal, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. It has slashed annual grain harvests.

Niger is one of the worst affected countries, leaving some 3.6 million people in need of food aid and an estimated 150,000 children facing acute malnutrition.

The international community has been slow to respond to the situation, as pledges of aid continue to fall short and the situation deteriorates. The immediate amount of money required for Niger is some £17 million, a tiny sum in global terms.

The British government has pledged its share of £3.6 million, but much more action is required. International development secretary Hilary Benn is pushing the United Nations to establish a permanent emergencies fund to plug the gap between urgent need and the procurement of money.

More than 2.7 million people are also facing food shortages in Mali and Burkina Faso as a result of the locust outbreaks and drought, says Christian Aid. The situation in Niger is having a knock-on effect in neighbouring countries as traders take their grain to sell in Niger, where the severe shortages have pushed prices up.

Christian Aid works in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso and has been collaborating with a wide range of development partners to mitigate the effects of the food crisis through enabling cereal banks to manage and distribute food more effectively; supplying farmers with information on current market prices for crops; organising cereal and seed distribution, and supporting centres that distribute animal feed and provide training in small scale agriculture.

The agencyís West Africa partners have also been training local communities and helping to establish local task forces to deal with any further locust outbreak and helping to establish local government locust prevention and warning systems.

Christian Aid is the official relief, development and advocacy agency of some 40 Christian denominations is Britain and Ireland.

The evangelical UK agency Tearfund has been doing on the ground assessment with its partner Jemed in Niger, as well as making grants to enable local churches in the region to help remote villages, building contacts in the communities to gain important local knowledge of the unfolding crisis.

Jemed works with the nomadic people to create ëfixation pointsí where they can find a water well, a grain bank, and send their children to school. These fixation points are operating well, says Tearfund, with extra grain being supplied to ensure that women and children survive the harsh conditions. But, if the rains fail to come in the next few weeks, the grain banks could run out.

Another Tearfund partner, the Union of Protestant Evangelical Churches in Niger, (UEEPN), is running community grain banks in southern Niger. They will help provide villagers with a supply of grain during the ëhunger gapí that comes before the harvest. Currently 20 villages have UEEPN grain stores that are managed by elected village committees.

Find books now:

Christian agencies act on West Africa drought crisis

-22/07/05

As international concern mounts about the drought in Niger, which threatens millions of lives, the UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has pledged to continue investing in short- and long-term solutions. Tearfund is also involved in local assessment and support.

Though media attention has focussed on one country, the problem impacts a wider swathe of West Africa. A locust invasion swept across the Northern Sahel region in 2004, destroying crops in Niger, Senegal, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. It has slashed annual grain harvests.

Niger is one of the worst affected countries, leaving some 3.6 million people in need of food aid and an estimated 150,000 children facing acute malnutrition.

The international community has been slow to respond to the situation, as pledges of aid continue to fall short and the situation deteriorates. The immediate amount of money required for Niger is some £17 million, a tiny sum in global terms.

The British government has pledged its share of £3.6 million, but much more action is required. International development secretary Hilary Benn is pushing the United Nations to establish a permanent emergencies fund to plug the gap between urgent need and the procurement of money.

More than 2.7 million people are also facing food shortages in Mali and Burkina Faso as a result of the locust outbreaks and drought, says Christian Aid. The situation in Niger is having a knock-on effect in neighbouring countries as traders take their grain to sell in Niger, where the severe shortages have pushed prices up.

Christian Aid works in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso and has been collaborating with a wide range of development partners to mitigate the effects of the food crisis through enabling cereal banks to manage and distribute food more effectively; supplying farmers with information on current market prices for crops; organising cereal and seed distribution, and supporting centres that distribute animal feed and provide training in small scale agriculture.

The agency's West Africa partners have also been training local communities and helping to establish local task forces to deal with any further locust outbreak and helping to establish local government locust prevention and warning systems.

Christian Aid is the official relief, development and advocacy agency of some 40 Christian denominations is Britain and Ireland.

The evangelical UK agency Tearfund has been doing on the ground assessment with its partner Jemed in Niger, as well as making grants to enable local churches in the region to help remote villages, building contacts in the communities to gain important local knowledge of the unfolding crisis.

Jemed works with the nomadic people to create ëfixation points' where they can find a water well, a grain bank, and send their children to school. These fixation points are operating well, says Tearfund, with extra grain being supplied to ensure that women and children survive the harsh conditions. But, if the rains fail to come in the next few weeks, the grain banks could run out.

Another Tearfund partner, the Union of Protestant Evangelical Churches in Niger, (UEEPN), is running community grain banks in southern Niger. They will help provide villagers with a supply of grain during the ëhunger gap' that comes before the harvest. Currently 20 villages have UEEPN grain stores that are managed by elected village committees.

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