West Africa: Food Supply

International Development written question – answered on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour, Islwyn

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether he is taking steps to avert a serious food shortage in West Africa.

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development

The EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO) estimates that 6.8 million men, women and children across the Sahel region of West Africa are at risk of severe food shortages in the coming months. This is due to a lower harvest in 2011 compared with 2010, combined with unseasonably high cereal prices across West Africa.

In direct response to these early warning signals, my Department has announced an urgent package of support to help mitigate the crisis. British aid will help treat 68,000 severely malnourished children in Niger, Chad and Mali and provide animal feed and animal vaccinations to 30,000 families to keep their livestock alive.

In addition, British aid is already reaching those in need through the release of £7.8 million from the United Nation's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)—to which Britain is a major contributor.

With Department for International Development (DFID) officials I will continue to monitor the situation closely and will liaise with their opposite numbers in other Governments to ensure other countries take their fair share of the response.

DFID officials will continue to liaise closely with officials from other agencies and are currently visiting the region to further assess the current situation.

We also need to improve conditions for these people to withstand future droughts. Britain acted quickly in the Horn of Africa and the UK urges similarly swift leadership from our partners in the Sahel.

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