REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO)
West Africans could face another food crisis in 2012, but Oxfam International is insisting it is avoidable.
Calls to increase aid are underway, as experts warn millions of adults and children risk facing starvation.
"The situation is looking extremely worrying for millions of people in West Africa, but the worst is not yet inevitable," Mamadou Biteye of Oxfam Humanitarian Lead in West Africa said in a press release Monday.
"The crisis has been identified early, and we know that there are cost-effective measures that can be taken now to protect those most vulnerable. This time we can act before the emergency hits," Biteye added.
A severe drought will continue to hurt western African crops and livestock and could eventually leave millions without food and water.
Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad are said to be countries facing greater risk, with low rainfall becoming a growing problem.
Last year the Sahel region experienced a drought induced famine, which resulted in at least nine confirmed deaths and almost 18 million directly at risk.
"People are still recovering from the last crisis in 2010 and are incredibly vulnerable to any extra shocks, such as rising food prices, poor harvests or the death of their animals," Biteye warned.
"These people need help now to build their resilience before next year. Acting early could make a huge difference," Biteye added.
Stephen Cockburn, regional campaign and policy manager of Oxfam West Africa, confirmed that there are currently a number of organizations providing donations, but insisted there is definitely a need for more aid to ensure everyone at risk is protected.
"Evaluations are on-going but there are currently 7 million people at risk, but this figure could be higher," Cockburn told The Christian Post.
Cockburn told CP that Christian organizations are among the list of current donors, but could not immediately provide their names.
He also confirmed that the European Union has been a tremendously generous donor, recently providing more than $13 million in addition to more than $52 million in aid funds.
Cockburn said that while millions in aid will go a long way, Oxfam encourages donors to provide whatever they can afford.
"We receive most of our donations in small portions, so all donations are welcome large and small," he said.
He stressed that without donations, West African children, in particular, may not survive.
"The long term impacts will result in widespread starvation, and children becoming severely malnourished and developmentally challenged," he said.
The 2012 food crisis could be worse than the previous 2010 crisis in Sahel, he warned.