Aid agencies urge government action to avert famine in Africa

 International donors and African governments must act urgently to save millions of lives by preventing massive food shortages in southern Africa turning into a full-scale famine, Britain's leading aid agencies warned on Friday. Up to 13 million people will go hungry over the next nine months in what the United Nations has called 'the world's most pressing food deficit', unless food aid is drastically stepped up, says the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which is made up of 14 British aid agencies. DEC charities, such as Care, Christian Aid, Save the Children and World Vision, are spearheading the distribution of much-needed food supplies in the region, as well as providing seeds and tools to help people prepare for the next planting season. DEC Chief Executive Brendan Gormley said: "If political will internationally and within southern Africa is exercised now, a tragedy for millions of people can be avoided. It would be scandalous if failure to act now meant that once again we had to watch a human disaster gradually unfold on our television screens. The Disasters Emergency Committee normally appeals for funds from the British public in response to emergencies. But this time we are issuing a warning because we believe that disaster can be prevented." The gap remains great between what is needed and what has been pledged by international donors such as the UK Government's Department for International Development. And claims that commercial imports will fill that gap are flawed, aid agencies working in the region believe. The DEC is made up of: ActionAid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International, Children's Aid Direct, Christian Aid, Christian Children's Fund (GB), Concern, Help the Aged, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.

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