WFP today increased its emergency appeal for Mali in order to feed an additional 175,000 children in the hardest-hit parts of the country and avoid it slipping into a humanitarian crisis similar to neighbouring Niger.
WFP revised its appeal for Mali to US$13.6 million from US$7.4 million to feed the children under the age of five until the end of the year in the areas of Gao on the Niger river, Timbouctou, Kidal in the northeast and Kayes and Koulikoro near the border with Mauritania.
WFP was already targeting a total of 450,000 people in the most critical areas of Mali, which like Niger has a recurring problem with food shortages and associated malnutrition, especially at the height of the three-month annual lean season before the first harvests in October.
"The international community must respond now to avoid a humanitarian crisis," said Pablo Recalde, WFP's Mali Country Director. "This cyclical food shortage in an already burdened country like this will only further weaken the livelihoods of rural families unless we act immediately."
"Mali is doing its best under dire conditions to help its people", Recalde said. But across the Sahel, where drought and locusts in 2004 have made an always difficult lean season even more arduous, even the best efforts will fall short if they do not receive international support."
Recent assessments show that the 175,000 children are at risk of malnutrition. WFP is already targeting 450,000 people to improve the ability of farmers to cope with poor production cycles. The most vulnerable receive food through Food-For-Work projects and the creation of cereal banks.
Ranked among the four least-developed countries in the world, Mali is subject to structural food insecurity stemming from poverty, lack of rain, rudimentary farming techniques, desertification and precarious health and sanitation conditions. Last year's locust invasions, which were the worst in 15 years, further weakened Mali's ability to grow enough food.
In March, the Malian government forecast 1.2 million people would face food shortages. In close collaboration with humanitarian partners, the government has released some 30,000 metric tons of food from its National Emergency Reserves to help stave off a crisis.
WFP has already released 3,700 tons of food to be distributed to those most in need.
WFP's main aims are to help people who have exhausted their normal survival strategies and have begun to sell their productive stocks and migrate in search of work and to contribute to maintaining productive potential for next year's harvest. WFP also supports the government's capacity to respond to future emergencies by rebuilding the National Emergency Reserves.
To date, WFP has received contributions of US$2.7 million to its emergency operation in Mali, leaving a shortfall of US$10.9 million. It is vital that the remaining funds are provided as soon as possible so that food can be purchased within the region to provide an immediate response.
WFP's has received confirmed contributions from the European Commission (US$808,000), Luxembourg (US$625,000), Belgium (US$484,000) and Turkey (US$300,000) and multilateral funds US$500,000).
To date, WFP's emergency operation IN NIGER - seeking US$57.6 million - has received US$24.8 million a current shortfall of 57 percent.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.
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