In West Africa’s hungry Sahel millions need immediate help…..Over twice New Zealand’s total population in Africa’s Sahel region need immediate help as hunger tightens its grip on their region.Christian World Service (CWS) has today issued an appeal for funds to help avert impending disaster in the Sahel.Ten million people are already struggling to find food. CWS’s global partner network, ACT Alliance* is already working with partner groups in the Sahel to head off the growing crisis.A food and nutrition deficit is deepening in the Sahel.One million children are estimated to be at risk of severe acute malnutrition.The Governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Niger have declared a crisis and issued calls for international assistance.The Sahel area has been hit hard by a mix of drought, irregular seasons and political instability in recent years.People who went through extreme food stress in the droughts of 2009 and 2011 have had no time to rebuild reserves.Humanitarian groups are keen to move fast to avert the deepening disaster says CWS national director, Pauline McKay.“Last year the Horn of Africa failed to get significant global attention until it was almost too late,’’ said Ms McKay.“We want to help our partners get on top of this very strong, very severe food situation as soon as they can.”CWS is supporting the ACT Alliance strategy of combining immediate aid with longer term measures aimed at building resilience and capacity amongst affected populations.ACT Alliance governing board member, Paul Valentin, who was in Burkina Faso recently said that the spectre of famine was close. Families were surviving on what they could gather from trees and eating once a day.“There is a sense of despair because people literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Valentin.The need to create lasting solutions that help keep populations in their own regions has helped shape the ACT Alliance approach to the Sahel situation.In Mauritania the ACT Alliance is funding emergency food aid with a focus on people most at risk including pregnant women and children. At the same time the ACT Alliance is also working to help people develop their food producing capacity, earn income and eventually lessen the need for aid.ACT Alliance General Secretary, John Nduna said that the two pronged approach made long term sense.“ACT Alliance’s work in Mauritania is focused on bridging that aid development continuum. We are committed to providing humanitarian relief to the most vulnerable – but we also want to empower people to generate sustainable food and income for themselves and their families,” said John Nduna. “This is the heart of our message; not only to provide emergency relief to the most vulnerable populations but also to help build resilience to chronic food insecurity, so that people can look after themselves and minimise the need for outside intervention.” *ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) consists of 100 national churches and groups working in 130 countries for humanitarian assistance and development. ACT helps where needed regardless of race, religion or region. Donations can be made on line at www.cws.org.nz/donate , sent to PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8140 or by calling 0800 74 73 72.