In Baaba Maal's new role as Oxfam Ambassador he urged the world to respond to the food crisis in West and Central Africa before it is too late, having just returned from visiting communities in Senegal.
Baaba Maal said: 'In February I travelled to Mauritania with Oxfam and was shocked by how bad things were. But I have just returned from a neighboring region of Senegal and found that already things are so much worse. As well as the acute lack of food we saw children struggling to find water to drink. Everywhere is dry, wells have dried up and dead animals are littered everywhere.'
18 million people are threatened by this year's food crisis in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa, 850,000 of whom live in Baaba Maal's home country of Senegal. And in the area of Matam visited by the musician, the effects of drought have hit hard.
The food crisis which has been brought about by low rainfall, poor harvests, a lack of pasture and rising food prices, is only set to escalate. The region is also dealing with over 320,000 displaced people who have been forced to leave their homes as a result of conflict in Mali. 160,000 of these are seeking refuge in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger - countries where communities are already struggling to find enough to eat.
Oxfam's Regional Campaigns and Policy Manager, Steve Cockburn, said: 'the UN is now saying that up to $1.5 billion could be needed to prevent the situation in West and Central Africa turning into a catastrophe. Some donors have been responding positively, but we still only have about half the funding we need. The money could make a huge difference, but is needed now'.
The UN estimates that 6 million people are already living in severe food insecurity across the region, and that one million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
Claire Lewis, Oxfam Global Ambassador Programme Manager said: 'We are so fortunate to have Baaba Maal as an Oxfam Global Ambassador speaking out on this crisis. He is hugely respected as an artist, both in Africa and across the world, and we hope that his words will help to galvanise governments into action.'
Baaba Maal, who last week held a concert in Matam, Northern Senegal, with funds raised going to the Sahel appeal said: 'I am truly honored to be taking up the role of Oxfam Global Ambassador having seen the work that Oxfam is doing in West and Central Africa to try to avert this crisis. And I will continue to add my voice to their call for an urgent response to the food crisis in the region. Nobody should die from hunger in the 21st century.'
Notes to editors:
The UN estimates that across the Sahel:
- 18.4 million people are in need of assistance
- 6 million people are in severe food insecurity
- Over 1 million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition
- The UN is currently revising its funding appeal for the crisis, but has said that it is likely that up to $1.5 billion will be needed to protect people. So far $537 million has been committed, according to the UN's Financial Tracking Service.
- The two biggest donors to the Sahel Food Crisis to date have been the European Commission and United States.
To download pictures of Baaba Maal's February trip to Matam see:
To see a film of Baaba Maal's trip February to Mauritania see http://vimeo.com/37300339
To download pictures of Baaba Maal's February trip to Mauritania see:
For interviews with Oxfam staff and more information on the Food
Crisis contact: Rose Marsh 07789 078855 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Oxfam Ambassadors are: Annie Lennox, Angelique Kidjo, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Helen Mirren, Helena Christensen, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Scarlett Johansson, Minnie Driver, Gael Garcia Bernal, Miguel Bose, Rahul Bose, Djimon Hounsou, Kristin Davis and Chris Martin. http://www.oxfam.org/en/ambassadors