Ewan McGregor issues appeal for the children of the Sahel
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 21 May 2012 – As aid agencies warn of a major funding shortage for the crisis in the Sahel, actor and UNICEF Ambassador Ewan McGregor has added his voice to those calling for more help for the region.
“Children in the Sahel region of West Africa are at risk of starving to death. Drought, failed harvests and increasing insecurity have created a humanitarian crisis on the verge of disaster,” he said.
The Sahel is one of the world’s poorest regions, with a very high rate of child mortality from lack of food. The United Nations estimates more than 490,000 children die each year from causes related to malnutrition.
But 2012 is expected to be much worse. UNICEF estimates 1 million children under age 5 will suffer from severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition, and that number could reach as high as 1.4 million.
State of emergency
The governments of the worst-affected countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Niger, Mali and Mauritania – have each declared a state of emergency and are asking for international help.
Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal are seeing increasing cases of malnutrition, but have not declared a state of emergency.
Conflict in Libya and Mali is also placing increased pressure on neighbouring countries. Southern Mauritania, for example, is facing a double emergency, with an influx of refugees from the recent coup in Mali compounding the impact of the food crisis.
UNICEF has launched a massive international campaign to raise US$120 million to treat and feed children. So far, only 66 per cent of that amount has been raised.
‘We have to do more’Mr. McGregor, who has worked with UNICEF since 2004, joins an international roster of stars including Mia Farrow, Selena Gomez and Angélique Kidjo who are supporting UNICEF’s efforts to save lives in the Sahel.
“We can stop these children from dying. UNICEF is the largest provider of emergency life-saving food for children in the region, but we have to do more before it’s too late,” he said.