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Christian Aid launches Africa food crisis appeal

International development agency Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal to support the millions of people going hungry across Africa in the face of escalating food prices.

In its scale and reach, this is a crisis of proportions unmatched for decades. Most African countries are not self-sufficient in food and are now being hit by massive price hikes so that once cheap imports are unaffordable. In the first three months of this year (2008) all major foodstuffs hit their highest prices in real terms for nearly 30 years, according the World Food Programme (WFP).

Ethiopia is facing a potential catastrophe with 126,000 children in immediate danger of death and a further six million at risk of malnutrition, according to the UN. Kenya has seen price hikes of 50 per cent in six months. 

In Burkina Faso, almost a quarter of children under five are emaciated and half a million people are dependent on WFP handouts.  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, families are forced to skip meals.

‘Christian Aid is doing everything we can to help – but we want to do more,’ says Nick Guttmann, head of Christian Aid’s humanitarian division. ‘We are urging people in Britain, the churches and religious groups to help us increase our support to those most vulnerable to this crisis.

‘With more cash, we can further develop work with our local African partner agencies, distributing seeds and livestock and helping communities improve their agricultural productivity to reduce their dependence on highly priced imported foods.’   

The crisis has been caused in part by ruinous trade liberalisation policies forced on poor countries by donor nations and international financial institutions.

In return for trade and aid, they have had to remove protective tariffs from agricultural produce, leaving markets open to heavily subsidised imports from richer nations, which have driven local producers out of business. Global food price rises have then forced up the price of imports.

In recent years, there has also been chronic under investment in food production in poorer countries, and a greater emphasis on cash crops such as flowers, tobacco and biofuels.

The situation has been further exacerbated by climate change and rising fuel prices which has pushed up the cost of fertilised, seeds, pump irrigation and other agricultural necessities.

Christian Aid will work on the ground with those most affected across Africa, but we will also continue campaigning for changes to the trading structures that impoverish people, and for governments to address climate change.

To donate, please visit: www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies

For more press information, pictures or case studies, please contact Andrew Hogg on +44(0) 207 523 2058 or ahogg@christian-aid.org

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Notes to Editors:

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

Christian Aid has pictures available of people affected by food shortages in Burkina Faso