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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Hunger in Mali is being 'ignored'
Mobile clinics in the village of Maradounfa treat malnourished children.
Oxfam says the media spotlight is focused on Niger
Rich donor countries are ignoring the food crisis facing Mali, the international charity Oxfam has warned.

The United Nations launched a $7m appeal for the more than 1m people in need of food aid in December, but only 14% of this has been raised.

This contrasts with neighbouring Niger where media attention has helped the UN raise $16m, although it says three times as much is needed there.

Last year's drought and locust plague hit the entire West African Sahel.

Worsening situation

"Now that the media spotlight is focused on Niger, the world has finally started responding to the crisis there. But this is not just about Niger," Oxfam's Natasha Kofoworola Quist said.

Every moment that they delay, more lives are put at risk
Natasha Kofoworola Quist

Mali's government and the UN have started distributing food, she said, but it was not enough to avert a major crisis.

The worst affected areas are Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, all in the north of the country, Oxfam says.

"Governments must fully fund the World Food Programme appeal... Every moment that they delay, more lives are put at risk," Ms Quist said.

In neighbouring Mauritania, more than 25% of the population are at risk from hunger and more than 500,000 people in Burkina Faso are in immediate need of food assistance, the charity says.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme says the worsening situation in Niger means that it will now need $57m to deal with the crisis, three times the amount originally estimated.

"Whole families are suffering because of a desperate shortage of food, which has forced them to eat just one meal a day of maize, leaves or wild fruits," James Morris, WFP's executive director said.

There is only a very short window of opportunity in which to move food quickly to those who need it most before the height of the rainy season makes access difficult, the WFP says.

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