The European Union on Monday made another 40 million euros (51 million dollars) in humanitarian aid available to West Africa's Sahel region, warning that 18 million people are at risk of hunger as a food crisis in the area reaches its peak.
The extra funds, which bring to 337 million euros the amount that the EU has given to counter the crisis, will be used to feed children and distribute food to those most in need, according to the EU's executive, the European Commission.
But several aid groups argued that more than 900 million dollars in new donations are needed to effectively tackle the crisis.
"Families need help urgently, their lives hanging dangerously in the balance as donors are moving far too slowly to respond. This crisis is fast becoming one of the hardest to fund in decades," Jasmine Whitbread of Save the Children said, pleading for more help along with Oxfam, World Vision and Action Against Hunger.
Insufficient harvests, "erratic" weather and people flowing into the area following conflicts in Libya and Mali are contributing to the emergency situation, said the EU's commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva.
"We face real human tragedy," she told participants at a conference on the Sahel crisis in Brussels on Monday that brought together African and UN officials, international donors and aid organizations.
"Right now, people across the Sahel are starting to scrape the bottom of empty grain stores. Their only remaining options are to sell their animals, farm tools and eat the grain they should now be planting for the next harvest," she added.
The conference marked the launch of a new partnership, AGIR Sahel, to help people in the Sahel better deal with droughts.
"In today's world, it is difficult to accept that some people don't have enough to eat," EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in a statement.
"This can be prevented by working with Sahel countries and international partners to put in place sound agricultural systems to prevent future crisis," he noted.