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3 February 2014, Rome - The United Nations and humanitarian partners launched today a three-year Regional Strategic Response Plan to provide aid to millions of people in nine countries in Africa's Sahel region. The plan seeks to mobilize an initial US$2 billion from international donors in 2014.Some twenty million people are currently at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel and 2.5 million of them need urgent lifesaving food assistance. An estimated five million children under five years of age will suffer from malnutrition in 2014, and some 1.5 million of them will face acute malnutrition. Violence and insecurity has forced 1.2 million people to flee their homes creating protracted internal displacement and a refugee crisis."More people than ever are at risk in the Sahel and the scale of their needs is so great that no agency or organization can tackle it alone," said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos in Rome. "The strategic plan for the region will help us reach millions of people with vital assistance, build resilience and save lives."The strategy comprises country plans for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. It emphasizes strong partnerships with Governments and development partners, a regional perspective and multi-year time frame to better address the chronic causes of the crises."Our first priority is to ensure that farmers in the Sahel have a successful planting season in the coming weeks, providing them urgently with agricultural inputs," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "But our responsibility is also to make sure that the next drought will not lead to another major humanitarian crisis. Together with national governments and partners, we are working to build the resilience of Sahelian populations by producing quality seed varieties, rehabilitating degraded agricultural land, conserving rainwater and supporting small-scale irrigation."Population growth in the region is outstripping a slight increase in food production in 2013 and lack of access to food is compounded by high prices in most markets."The situation requires an early and large-scale humanitarian response in almost all countries of the Sahel," said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. "The European Commission will give €142 million in humanitarian aid in 2014. More contributions from international donors are needed as soon as possible to meet the basic needs of the people in the Sahel."Also present at the launch in Rome were Romano Prodi, UN Special Envoy on the Sahel; Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, World Food Programme (WFP); Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID; and Robert Piper, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.The 2013 appeal for the Sahel requested $1.7 billion and was 63 per cent funded.