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A blight which must be overcome

To think that in a world which sinks millions of dollars into armaments and fighting wars, there are almost a billion people going hungry in our midst around the globe is an indictment on all of us.

"An unparalleled number of severe food shortages has added 43 million to the number of people going hungry worldwide this year. And millions of children are now at risk of acute malnutrition, charities are warning. One week ahead of David Cameron's "hunger summit", they say that unless action is taken urgently, many more could fall victim.

For the first time in recent history, humanitarian organisations have had to respond to three serious food crises – in West Africa, Yemen and East Africa – in the past 12 months, according to Oxfam. Almost a billion people are now hungry – one in seven of the global population – and the number of acutely malnourished children has risen for the first time this decade.

But these issues are well known. When the hunger crisis hit the headlines last year, it was only after famine had already been declared in Somalia, killing an estimated 100,000 people and affecting 12 million. Needless deaths occurred and millions of extra dollars were spent simply because the international community had failed to act on early warnings."

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"If the world failed to listen when charities warned about the food crisis in the Horn of Africa, experts say they must pay attention when it comes to the Sahel. Six million people are already facing severe food insecurity in the region, and more than a million children are at risk of severe malnutrition.

Cycles of drought combined with low levels of agricultural investment, environmental degradation, high population growth and acute levels of poverty contribute to a context of "chronic" vulnerability, according to Oxfam. Conflict in Mali and high food prices – across the region food prices are higher by on average 25 to 50 per cent compared with the last five-year average – have exacerbated the crisis. The charity has launched an appeal and is aiming to reach 1.8 million people with emergency assistance across Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Gambia."

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