The Methodist Church's aid affiliate has launched an urgent appeal for West Africa, as millions of people in the region face chronic food shortages.
The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is responding, along with other faith and secular agencies, to a situation where poor rainfall and failed harvests in the Sahel have left 10 million people vulnerable to severe hunger.
Niger, the poorest country in the world according to the United Nations, has been worst hit, with almost 60 per cent of the population facing hunger this year.
Aid experts say that more than 1.5 million children face malnourishment unless urgent action is taken.
The Methodist Relief and Development Fund has already allocated £20,000 to the crisis-hit countries, and is urging people to donate to its emergency appeal so that it can reach those at risk in Niger and other affected countries - including Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
Yannick Milev, MRDF programme manager for West Africa, who has recently returned from a visit to Niger, declared: "Our partner in the country was very distressed by the reports they were receiving from the communities they work with."
"Entire villages are emptying as people flee to areas where they think they might find food – they either simply have no food, or cannot afford it," he said.
Milev continued: "The price of rice has doubled in some places. Not everyone can leave their villages, and some of the people left behind have been forced to eat roots and leaves from trees."
"These reports are shocking," says the Methodist agency spokesperson. "But the important message is that we can make a huge difference to many of the people affected by this crisis if we act quickly.".
Donations to MRDF can be made via www.mrdf.org.uk, by calling 020 7224 4814 to give by debit or credit card, or by cheque made payable to 'MRDF (West Africa emergency)' and sent to MRDF, 25 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5JR.