The United Nations currently estimates that the food crisis in the Sahel region of west Africa has left over 18 million people at risk of food shortage over the next few months. Of these, 8 million people require urgent assistance.
Having been in the region earlier this month, I can confirm that the scale of the needs are great, but the UK's early assistance is already achieving results and helping to avert the worst of the crisis, which nonetheless continues.
In response to the unfolding crisis, the UK provided two contributions of £5 million each in January and March 2012.
I confirm that we have announced over the past two weeks a further package of assistance. Worth an additional £15.4 million, this more than doubles UK assistance to the region in 2012, to a total of £25.4 million.
Through this assistance, British aid this year will support 1.6 million people at risk of hunger across Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, to achieve the following results:
Improved nutrition for 185,000 children and women (including therapeutic treatment to save the lives of over 110,000 severely malnourished children under five years old);
Food and cash vouchers for over 250,000 men, women and children;
Livelihoods support to over 980,000 people through:
1. The provision of seeds and tools for families to enable them to feed themselves for the next year; and
2. Animal feed and vaccinations to keep farmers' livestock alive.
These direct funds are in addition to £27 million of UK contributions also being provided in 2012 to the Sahel region through multilateral agencies such as the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
I and my officials will continue to monitor the situation closely and liaise with our opposite numbers in other Governments to urge that other countries also take their fair share of the response.