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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Football star calls for funding to prevent food crisis in Sahel

FAO Goodwill Ambassador, Raúl González
Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Raúl González has called for support towards prevention of nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa.

The Spanish football star, González visited Chad recently where more than 17 million people are at risk of hunger with over 1 million children under five, facing acute hunger.

FAO revealed to NaijaAgroNet in a press statement that the European Commission had increased their support to FAO in Chad by $1.3 million, about N208.3 million bringing its total support for the region to be $355 million, about N56.88 billion in 2012.

Identifying the fact that supporting local farmers and herders as priorities before and during the next planting season, Raúl said "If we want to help people grow their own food, funds are needed now."

The total amount needed by FAO in order to assist Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal is estimated at $97 million.

Director General, FOA, José Graziano da Silva said the funds would be used for seed distribution, small-scale irrigations schemes, fodder production and vaccination campaigns.

Director General, FOA, José Graziano da Silva
The major causes of the drought in the region, NaijaAgroNet recalls, have been as a result of chronic poverty, high food prices, conflict and the last year's drop in cereal production.

"We are losing the opportunity to give local communities the means to stop jumping from crisis to crisis," FAO boss, José Graziano warns, urging coordinated action that builds up their resilience and links relief with development.

Raúl's visitation to Chad, FAO noted, is part of "Professional Football Against Hunger," a campaign launched in 2008 by the European Football League which represents 30 largest professional football leagues and almost 800 clubs across Europe, stressing that the campaign is also FAO's leading international efforts to defeat hunger.

Sir David Richards, Chairman of the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), said they are partnering with European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and FAO on this project.
"We are proud to use the power and popularity of football," he said, pointing out that European professional football is providing a megaphone to raise awareness for their work, so that the right help could get to the people in need as soon as possible.
Yinka Awosanya/LS
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