NAIROBI, Kenya, January 20- On the eve of the 2012 African Cup of Nations, 25 footballers including Seydou Keita from Mali, Demba Ba from Senegal, Charles Kabore from Burkina Faso and Lawali Idrissa from Niger, have spoken out in solidarity with millions of people facing hunger across their region.
They are appealing to the international community to work together so that “We CAN win the match against hunger”.
In the face of an emerging food crisis in West Africa, Mali and Barcelona star Seydou Keita said: “If we act now we could save the lives of women and children who are always the first victims of food crises. If we act urgently, children will be saved from malnutrition and will have the chance to grow healthily and to succeed at school.”
National teams from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal are all determined to lift the Cup for their supporters back home.
They are calling on governments and the international community to show equal determination to help protect millions currently threatened by a looming food crisis across the Sahel region, including over one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.
The footballers have taken special photos and recorded videos which will be broadcast throughout the tournament calling for an early response to the coming crisis.
The photos are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/letstacklehunger
Oxfam, together with Save the Children, this week released a new report, A Dangerous Delay, which found that a late response to the current food crisis in the Horn of Africa – including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia – cost thousands of lives and millions of dollars.
Oxfam urged the international community to learn the lessons of the report and respond much earlier to prevent a disaster in West Africa.
The Sahel region has seen poor rains in 2011, causing a 25 percent drop in harvests compared with 2010 and pushing up food prices – almost doubling in some of the hardest hit areas. In some countries such as Mauritania, Chad and Niger, people are already on the move months earlier than expected as pastoralists look for new pasture for their livestock.
The region last saw a crisis in 2010, which affected 10 million people. The footballers’ appeals come on the back of statements by political leaders and governments in the region – including from Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Mali, who have promised to develop national emergency plans and have asked for international assistance.
“While the situation in the Sahel is serious, the worst is not yet inevitable if we act swiftly. We know about this coming crisis months earlier than we have in the past, meaning we can act now to save more lives and protect the livelihoods of many more people.
This is why we are delighted that footballers across West Africa have spoken out in solidarity with their fellow citizens to call for early action to win the match against hunger,” said Oxfam’s Eric Hazard.
The 25 footballers are
Mali: Seydou Keita (Barcelona, Spain), Mahamane Traore (Metz, France), Cedric Kante (Panathanaikos, Greece), Drissa Diakite (Nice, France), Modibo Maiga (Sochaux)
Senegal: Demba Ba (Newcastle, England), Mamadaou Niang (Captain, Fenerbahce, Turkey), Armand Traore (Queens Park Rangers, England), Souleymane Diawara (Marseille, France), Moussa Sow (Lille, France), Amara Traore (Coach), Ablaye Sarr (Assistant Coach), Jacques Faty (Sivasspor, Turkey), Omar Daff (Stade Brestois, France), Lamine Sane (Bordeaux, France), Remi Gomis (Valenciennes, France), Souleymane Camara (Montpellier, France)
Burkina Faso: Charles Kabore (Marseille, France), Bertrand Traore (Chelsea, England), Alain Traore (Auxerre, France), Moumouni Dagano (Al Khor), Jonathan Pitroipa (Stade Rennais)
Niger: Lawali Idrissa (Captain, AS FAN), Kamilou Daouda (Sfax), Boubacar Talatou (Orlando Pirates, South Africa)