20 Feb 2012

Clark calls for Africa food crisis funds

11:49 am on 20 February 2012

The head of the United Nations Development Programme, Helen Clark, has urged the world to step in to stop starvation in Africa's Sahel region.

Speaking in northern Niger, the former New Zealand prime minister said immediate help is needed to prevent the situation getting worse.

Ms Clark says she has seen badly malnourished children and very weak mothers.

The UN has appealed for $US850 million but Ms Clark says only a fraction of that has been raised so far.

"The appeal or request for Niger at this point is only 10% met. It needs to start filling up now so that we can really work to support people through the crisis."

She says poor harvests caused by recurring drought have created severe food shortages, leaving an estimated 10 million people across eight countries in urgent need of assistance.