28 February 2012, Brussels/Rome - "Urgent action is needed in the Sahel where millions of people are facing hunger". This is the message of European professional footballers who are working with the European Commission and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to raise awareness about the urgent need to assist the victims of hunger and to put them back on the path to self-sufficiency.
The European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Association for European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) are kicking off a joint awareness campaign about the need to fight hunger and malnutrition. The campaign will concentrate on the Sahel region of West Africa (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) where the Commission and FAO are working to avert a repeat of the hunger crisis that has been raging in the Horn of Africa.
The campaign's symbolic launch today took place in Brussels, where the European Union's Commissioner for humanitarian aid Kristalina Georgieva welcomed FAO's Goodwill Ambassador and football star Raúl Gonzalez Blanco and other members of the campaign's team: EPFL and English Premier League Chairman Sir David Richards, Spanish "La Liga" President José Luis Astiazarán and German "Bundesliga" Board Member and Foundation President Tom Bender.
"The European Commission is already engaged in the immediate response needed to avert a devastating food crisis that could affect nearly 12 million people in the Sahel region. Our alliance with the world's most popular game and a trusted partner like FAO will stress the urgency to bring life-saving relief and will highlight our efforts to be part of the solution," said Commissioner Georgieva.
"European football wants to contribute to alleviating the plight of those who suffer from hunger when struck by crisis like in the Sahel," said EPFL Chairman Sir David Richards.
"The people of the Sahel urgently need help. This campaign seeks the support of the public for food crises like this one and nobody knows as well as I do how important it is to have the stadium on your side to win the match", said Raul Gonzalez, FAO Goodwill Ambassador.
The "Professional Football against Hunger" campaign aims to raise awareness of the joint efforts needed to fight hunger and malnutrition. The motto of the campaign - Together We Can Save Lives - shows its spirit of solidarity and teamwork.
Football matches, field visits, actions at fairs, exhibitions, and social media activities will take place during the campaign, drawing attention to the plight of the hungry people in the world. The European Commission and FAO will demonstrate efficient and effective ways to prevent and mitigate hunger through their joint projects.
To help draw public attention to the scale of hunger's challenges, the European Professional Football League is mobilizing its vast network of member leagues and football clubs across the continent, including world class players.
The high point of the campaign is the European Match Day Against Hunger which will take place in 15 European countries on 31 March and 1 April - the 20th anniversary of ECHO, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department. The event will bring together 20 European football leagues in matches played by over 300 professional football clubs.