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West African farmers call for help as drought hits

by Staff Writers
Niamey (AFP) March 22, 2010
West African farmers appealed Monday for help as drought and famine menaced people and livestock, with malnutrition already affecting nearly a third of the population.

"Communities of farmers and pastoralists are already severely affected... with the acute malnutrition rate estimated at 29.9 percent, which is double the emergency level of 15 percent," warned Billital Maroobe, a coalition of farmers in an open letter to leaders of countries of the Sahel, a band of arid territory south of the Sahara.

Leaders of the nine countries in the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) are to meet Thursday in the Chadian capital N'Djamena.

Several countries are currently facing severe food crises due to insufficient grain supplies after erratic rain last year led to poor crops.

The situation is most alarming in Niger, where according to official figures more than 50 children have died from malnutrition since January.

"Farmers are sinking faster and irreversibly into absolute poverty," warned Billital Maroobe.

The coalition called on leaders to facilitate access to food for livestock, ensure the free movement of livestock and crops.

CILSS groups Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.

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