Millions of people in West Africa can only be saved from a major food crisis next year if aid preparations are scaled up, Oxfam said on Monday.
“With early indicators pointing to a likely food crisis in 2012, with people at particularly high risk in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, now is the time to invest in preventative measures,” the charitable aid agency said.
“Millions of people in West Africa could be protected from a serious food crisis if preparations are scaled up across West Africa,” Oxfam said in a statement.
Governments across the region “should scale up efforts to make sure people have money to buy food, receive animal feed for their livestock and emergency food is stocked and ready to be distributed,” it said.
Early warning systems have identified a range of factors that are contributing to the coming crisis.
“Low rainfall and water levels, poor harvests and lack of pasture, high food prices and a drop in remittances from migrants are all causing serious problems,” Oxfam said.
According to national early warning systems, it said, cereal production is down compared with the five-year average, with Mauritania and Chad showing deficits of more than 50 percent compared with last year. National food reserves are also dangerously low, while prices of some key cereals are up to 40 percent higher than the five-year average.
While evaluations are still ongoing to identify those most at risk, early reports suggest 6 million people in Niger and 2.9 million people in Mali live in areas vulnerable to the coming crisis, while in Mauritania 700,000 people — more than one-quarter of the population — are reported to be at risk.
Burkina Faso and Chad are also at risk, Oxfam said.
According to UNICEF, the most pressing needs are in Niger.