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19 JUN 2012

Emirati filmmaker Ali F. Mostafa brings Africa’s Sahel food crisis centre stage with new short video, Director hopes to raise regional awareness, funds to help 18 million people in 8 nations

Emirati director and Oxfam supporter Ali F. Mostafa has swapped the high-wire drama and cultural mash-ups of his highly successful City of Life and Classified films for a new short video in an entirely different vein: an up-close and personal look at one of the most pressing humanitarian challenges in the world today.

The food crisis in the African Sahel region that is endangering more than 18 million people across Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Gambia, Burkina Faso, northern Nigeria and Chad is the focus of Mostafa's new work. The one-minute clip is one of several Oxfam initiatives to raise awareness and funding particularly from the Middle East to help affected people in the West and Central African nations. Mostafa has supported Oxfam before, In 2011, he went on a five-day trip to Mali to support Oxfam's projects in providing basic education to the children there.

The Sahel's vulnerability stems from erratic rainfall that has led to poor food harvests, high food prices and water shortages, exacerbated by chronic poverty and deprivation and, in some areas, by domestic conflict and displacement. Early warning systems across the region earlier this year cautioned that the West and Central Africa nations would face a repeat of previous food crises in 2005, 2008 and 2010, the last of which affected more than 10 million people. Those fears are now a reality.

"People in Mali are running out of food just like those in Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Chad," said Mostafa. "While the world looks the other way, more than 18 million people are going hungry. Children will die in huge numbers if we don't act now. The worst can be avoided if we all pull in the same direction."

Mostafa and Oxfam are looking to existing donors and also new ones from governments, institutions and corporations particularly in the Middle East to commit funds for emergency and relief work. They are also looking to individuals in the region to spread awareness and encourage high-level involvement. Last month, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that 18.4 million people in the Sahel are vulnerable to the effects of the food crisis, from more than 713,000 in Gambia to over 6.4 million in Niger. OCHA also estimated that over US$1.5 billion (about HK$11.7 billion) is needed to address current needs - but only half of the money has been mobilized to date.

Oxfam must raise at least $53 million (about HK$400 million) urgently to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to 1.2 million people in the Sahel. So far, it has raised half its target. Oxfam believes this is a crucial point for aid to the Sahel because the situation is already desperate for many people. If the right actions are taken, the people there need not suffer from hunger even as they continue to face droughts. Early warning systems have helped governments in the region recognise the problems earlier. Now they need the support and focus of the humanitarian community. Delays and funding shortfalls could result in millions of people being left without food, clean water and vital assistance.

Oxfam operates both emergency intervention and long-term sustainability programmes in the Sahel region. They include:
• In Chad, targeted food distribution, cash for work programmes, agricultural and animal health support;
• In Burkina Faso, refugee assistance and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) campaigns;
• In Mauritania, vegetable gardens, refugee programmes and water-borne disease eradication;
• In Niger, cash for work to families in need, restoration of cereal banks and water points, education and water services for refugees and host communities;
• In Senegal, seed banks, rehabilitation of community wells and farmer support; and
• In Gambia, cash transfers for food, seeds and hygiene promotion.

Ali F. Mostafa’s short video can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nGQSV_D_Bk&feature=youtu.be


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About Oxfam Hong Kong
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 92 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.