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Funds for the Sahel are needed now, Raúl says
Over 17 million people at risk of hunger - On a visit to drought-stricken Chad, Spanish football star Raúl González added his voice to urgent calls for funding to prevent a full-blown food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, where over 17 million people are at risk of hunger and more than one million children under five face acute malnutrition.
A combination of drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict has led to dramatic declines in food production across the Sahel.
In Chad, for example, cereal production dropped to almost half of last year's. And the conflict in neighbouring Libya forced large numbers of expatriate workers to return, further compounding the dire economic situation.
Spanish football player Raúl González, who acts as a goodwill ambassador for FAO, travelled to Chad in support of joint efforts by FAO and the European Commission to help the most affected people get back on their feet.
In 2012, the European Commission stepped up its funding to FAO in Chad by €1 million ($1.3 million), bringing its overall contribution in the Sahel crisis in 2012 to €290 million ($355 million). The European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, has been prominent in international efforts to prevent the crisis escalating.
In Chad, with European Commission funding, FAO is now providing life- and livelihood-saving assistance benefiting over 300 000 people.
More is still needed to fully mitigate the Sahel crisis. Support for local farmers and herders is a priority before and during the next planting season, which coincides with the rainy season starting within weeks. "If we want to help people grow their own food, funds are needed now," said Raúl.