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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
Call to help avert Malawi crisis
Malawian villagers
More than four million face famine in Malawi
A charity boss has called on Scots to take action to help avert a food crisis in Malawi.

Oxfam's programme manager for Malawi, Nellie Nyang'wa, said more than four million people faced hunger due to drought that affected maize production.

She told officials at the International Unit of the Scottish Executive the situation was reaching "crisis point".

First Minister Jack McConnell visited Malawi in May and set up a fundraising appeal to help the country.

Donor governments

Ms Nyang'wa said: "An estimated four million people in Malawi, four million in Zimbabwe, one million in Zambia, 400,000 in Mozambique, 500,000 in Lesotho and 200,000 in Swaziland will not have enough food to eat over the next six months unless help is provided quickly."

She said the crisis, expected to peak between November and February, would be triggered by a lack of rain, but the HIV/AIDS epidemic, enforced economic liberalisation and government policies are among the root causes.

"Money is desperately needed now from rich countries so that charities, governments and the UN can prevent the crisis from worsening," she said.

"We want people to learn from the lesson of the Niger food crisis and put a halt to the situation before it reaches crisis point.

The Niger crisis was forecast six months in advance, yet rich countries did almost nothing until the 11th hour
Nellie Nyang'wa

"This means we need to start raising more funds now, before it's too late, and before people die of starvation. We need a response from governments now."

Ms Nyang'wa said some people were already being forced to take their children out of school to help find food for the family.

She added: "The Niger crisis was forecast six months in advance, yet rich countries did almost nothing until the 11th hour.

"People died as a direct result. Now, if rich countries wait, once again, until TV crews arrive before giving enough money, people in southern Africa will pay the price of their neglect."

The first minister launched the Malawi appeal fund on his return from the country, having seen at first hand the state of hospitals and schools.

Mr McConnell is keen to spend up to 3m a year on aid for Malawi and other nations, using the executive's international development fund.

Malawi has close ties to Scotland that stretch back to visits by David Livingstone, the Lanarkshire explorer.

Aid pledge over Malawi donations
13 Jun 05 |  Scotland
McConnell unveils Malawi appeal
01 Jun 05 |  Scotland

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