Republished from the UN News Centre
UN convenes meeting of aid groups to discuss how to tackle hunger in Sahel
The leaders of United Nations aid agencies, humanitarian organizations and donor governments will meet on Wednesday in Rome to discuss how to urgently scale up assistance in Africa's Sahel region, where drought and food shortages are threatening millions of lives.
"The needs of the millions affected by drought in the Sahel are enormous, and the time to act is now," said Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which will host the meeting at its headquarters.
"This gathering comes at a critical moment as humanitarian agencies are gearing up their response in an effort to prevent a crisis becoming a disaster."
The Sahel is a regional belt spanning West and Central Africa immediately south of the Sahara Desert and it includes a number of countries which have been regularly afflicted by food insecurity.
Last year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that several areas of the Sahel had been affected by irregular rains during the 2011 cropping season and that an early end to the rains would lead to a significant drop in production and increased food insecurity.
Participants at the meeting, which will hosted at WFP's headquarters, are expected to include the heads of FAO; the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), as well as the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and top officials from the European Union and the United States.