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Feds to matchfunds raised for West Africa

In the face of a growing humanitarian crisis in a large swath of West African countries, the Canadian government says it will match aid funds raised privately until Sept. 30.

The government commitment, announced Aug. 7, supplements $47.5 million in assistance already pledged by Ottawa. The new commitment could add tens of millions of dollars to Canada’s aid budget to the region.

The new commitment to match funds raised by private aid organizations began with a $10 million contribution to the United Nations’ World Food Programme for relief efforts.

Aid groups, including Oxfam Canada and the Winnipeg-based Canadian Foodgrains Bank, welcomed the federal commitment as a way to leverage funds they are raising to help more than three million people at risk.

Rising food prices, growing population displacement to refuge camps and insecurity because of armed conflict have turned a crisis into a potential disaster throughout the region, which includes Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia and northern Cameroon.

“The United Nations now estimates that 18.7 million people across the Sahel (region) are facing hunger, which includes more than one million children under the age of five at immediate risk of severe acute malnutrition,” said a Canadian government statement on the crisis.

International co-operation minister Julian Fantino urged Canadians to be generous.

“Canadians have shown that they are always ready to help those in need,” he said in a statement.

“Right now, millions of women, men and children in the Sahel are suffering from hunger and severe malnutrition. This is absolutely unacceptable. With generosity from Canadians, we can do more to respond to this crisis and support people in dire need.”

The Foodgrains Bank recently announced a new project of food aid that raises the church-supported aid effort in the Sahel to $10 million.

“The $335,000 project, which is being organized by Foodgrains Bank member World Relief Canada, with support from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency, will provide 534 tonnes of millet in August and September,” the food-grains bank said in an Aug. 10 announcement.

“It will be implemented by local partners in Niger.”

Canadian aid groups will use the promise of matching federal dollars to try to raise money over the next six weeks for Sahel famine relief.

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