On the eve of the 2012 African Cup of Nations, more than 25 footballers including Seydou Keita from Mali, Charles Kaboré from Burkina Faso, Demba Bâ from Sénégal and Lawali Idrissa from Niger have spoken out in solidarity with millions of people facing hunger across their region.
They are appealing to the international community to work together so that “We CAN win the match against hunger”.
Mali and Barcelona football star Seydou Keita added: “If we act now we could save the lives of women and children who are always the first victims of food crises. If we act urgently, millions of children will be saved from malnutrition and will have the chance to grow healthily and to succeed at school.”
National teams from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal, are all determined to lift the cup for their supporters back home. They have called on governments and the international community to show equal determination to help protect millions currently threatened by a looming food crisis across the Sahel region, including over one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.
Footballers from these national teams have been photographed and recorded videos with the international agency Oxfam and its network of partner organisations which will be aired throughout the tournament calling for an early response to the coming crisis.
The region has seen poor rains in 2011, causing a 25 per cent drop in harvests compared with 2010, and pushing up food prices – almost doubling in some of the hardest hit areas. In some countries such as Mauritania, Chad and Niger, people are already been on the move months earlier than expected, and pastoralists are looking for new pasture for their livestock.
The region last saw a crisis in 2010, which affected 10 million people. The appeals of the footballers come on the back of statements by political leaders and governments in the region – including those from Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Mali who have promised to develop national emergency plans and have asked for international assistance.
“While the situation in the Sahel is serious, the worst is not yet inevitable if we act swiftly. We know about this coming crisis months earlier than we have in the past, meaning we can act now to save more lives and protect the livelihoods of many more people. This is why we are delighted that footballers across West Africa have spoken out in solidarity with their fellow citizens to call for early action to win the match against hunger” said Oxfam spokesperson Eric Hazard.”