SOS Children and other aid agencies are working together in a global effort to reduce the numbers of children suffering the devastating effects of chronic malnutrition. SOS Children has launched an emergency appeal for the Sahel region of West Africa where millions are at risk of malnutrition. Crop shortages, rising food prices and insecurity have left more than 1 million children facing starvation. An increase in cases of malaria and other diseases is another serious threat for thousands of children.
Meryl Davies, Director of Fundraising at SOS Children, says: “This food shortage is being driven by alarming rises in the cost of living and more and more families can’t afford basic foods. Added to this is the drop in food production – it is a grim combination that is affecting millions of children and families.
“At SOS Children, we are well positioned to respond to this food crisis. We have been working in this region for many years and have a permanent presence in almost all of the affected countries. Some time ago we started our work to help families in the region be more resilient in times of crisis. In the areas identified at risk by the early famine warning systems, thousands of children are already supported by SOS Children through our community Family Strengthening Programmes and in numerous SOS Children's Villages. For example, in Mali alone, we are helping 9,400 people with free food and other help. In Niger, our emergency relief programme for famine victims is supporting thousands of children - we are focussing on food distribution, advising women on balanced nutrition for children, and the prevention of malnutrition and provision of medicine. Our health centres are an important part of the fight against hunger-related diseases and we provide special nutritional products which will help children. Families don’t have the capacity to defend their children against famine, so the emergency programme will be extended until the end of 2012 - this food crisis is threatening to reach a critical level very soon.”
The high profile of Olympians and with Britain's presidency of the G8 next year, as well as private and public investment the UK government has an opportunity to make a remarkable step forward in conquering starvation.
In addition to providing further support to families, SOS Children has increased its programmes by over 30% to meet the needs of even more children at risk and is working on long-term solutions to help the region to escape the cycle of famine.