DONAL Maher, Nenagh man and financial controller with the international children’s charity Plan Ireland is appealing for the people of Tipperary to support the West Africa Crisis Appeal.
Plan Ireland is urgently working to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Sahel region of West Africa, where some 13 million people are at risk from a food crisis. Children are most vulnerable, with hundreds of thousands under the age of five estimated to be malnourished.
A combination of poor rains, over-grazing, food price rises and insect infestation has left many rural families struggling to survive, especially in communities already weakened by the drought and food crisis of 2010.
Mr Maher said: “Usually the ‘hunger season’ begins in May but this year it has started earlier. There is additional pressure as there has been an influx of refugees from Mali and Nigeria following political unrest.”
“Plan has teamed up with local government workers and communities to tackle the problem before it gets significantly worse. Having worked actively in West Africa for over 35 years, Plan is very well placed to utilise our existing network to respond to disasters of this magnitude.”
In Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries with high levels of child malnutrition, more than 6 million people are at risk of hunger. With an overwhelming proportion of the population relying on agriculture, the country is particularly vulnerable.
Plan’s emergency response in Niger is being implemented in two of the most affected areas: Tillaberi and Dosso.
“There is an urgent need to focus on long-term support for the Sahel region as well as emergency food aid. Building up the resilience of the region to future droughts, and thereby gradually reducing the need for outside assistance, is critical,” he said.
Over the coming months, Plan’s priorities will be to help build communities’ resilience through reinforcing existing livelihoods and to provide assistance to affected children and their families through school feeding and food distribution programmes. Other initiatives will continue to focus on sustainable gardening and agriculture, drought resistant crop cultivation, grain banks, microfinance and nutritional centres for mothers and babies.
If you would like to help Plan Ireland, you can make a donation online at www.plan.ie or call Plan Ireland on 1800-829829