20 February 2017
I am Colm Byrne, Oxfam’s humanitarian programme manager. I have just returned from Niger, a country in the Lake Chad region in West Africa where already pockets of famine have been reported and large numbers of people are dying due to malnutrition and diarrhoea. As you may have heard in the news, famine has recently been declared in South Sudan. This is another country where I have seen first-hand the scale of the hunger crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.
With household food stocks scarce and food prices rising in the absence of production, many families are struggling to survive in the Lake Chad region where some seven million people simply cannot find enough food to eat.
Across the Chad Basin region, new mothers, their children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable as a result of the hunger crisis gripping the region where currently 1 out of every 3 children is suffering from malnutrition.
Above: Aamin, who is two and half years old and badly malnourished is held by his mother Aisha, 35, at at a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Oxfam is helping people here with sanitation and protection issues.
Hunger, wherever it exists, is cruel. Worst of all, its deadly. Malnutrition is one of the largest causes of child death in this region – and children in drought-affected regions such as this are most at risk.
I heard so many harrowing stories of the hunger faced by vulnerable people. Families like Aisha* and her young son Aamin* pictured above are an all-too common sight for Oxfam staff. Aisha is living in a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri in Niger, and two-and-a-half-year-old Aamin is severely malnourished.
By donating now, you can act quickly to make sure that people like Aisha and Aamin do not go hungry. Your support can help stop people’s rapid decline into malnutrition or famine.
We’ve already reached many thousands of people with food, water, livelihoods support, sanitation and hygiene kits in response to the hunger crisis in Niger and the Lake Chad region. We have distributed cooking equipment and provided seeds and tools to help traders and farmers. But our aim this year is to reach over 1.5 million people with life-saving assistance before it is too late.
Can you please help us reach that target?
In southern Africa, Malawi is also experiencing a major food crisis. The worst drought in decades has meant that people cannot grown food to feed their families. February is the lean time’ between harvests when typically there is little food to eat. But, today, there is barely any food at al. In a country like Malawi, where 9 in 10 people rely on farming, this drought has brought communities to the brink of catastrophe and a national state of emergency has been declared.
Oxfam is supporting people such as Julis Magawa in Malawi. The eyes of this proud and dignified man betray his sadness and the hardship this family man has endured.
He told us that his children had been crying because they were so hungry. I can only imagine how devastating it must be to know that day after day your children don’t have enough food to eat. Like so many others in Malawi, Julius has had to resort to desperate measures just to keep his family alive.
Speaking to Oxfam, Julius confessed he’d been so afraid for his wife Lucy and their children that he’d been driven to do something he hated doing. He’d been forced to break the law. Julius has again and again gone into the nearby forest and cut down trees for firewood. He’d sold this firewood for a pittance – but it was just enough as he told our staff with starting honesty. “It’s the only way I can feed my children.”
How would any of us behave in this situation? I simply don’t know. But I do know that Julius doesn’t want to break the law. He just wants to keep his children alive.
Above: Julius and Lucy struggle to feed their children.
With a targeted injection of cash from Oxfam, we can help him to buy food from the local market so he can feed his family over the coming months. We can also give him the seeds to grow new crops. That way we can help Julius earn his living safely – and keep the whole family out of poverty.
By sending a gift today, you can help Dads like Julius to support their family in a safe and sustainable way. You can help mums like Aisha to feed their children without having to resort to begging.
The displaced families and communities I visited count among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We now live in a world where 1 in 9 people goes to bed hungry every night. It’s obscene that while this is happening across the world today we know that just 8 men have as much wealth as the 3.6 million people who make up the poorer half of humanity.
We will not eliminate extreme poverty unless countries begin to close the gap between the richest and the rest. But in the meantime, together we can help beat the hunger crisis that has countries like Malawi and Niger in its grip.
Please don’t delay and make a donation today. Thank you.