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Ottawa to match money raised to aid African region suffering food crisis

Because a severe drought in the Sahel region of West Africa has left them with no other income this year, a rising number of impoverished people are trekking to the small informal gold pits of Burkina Faso, where they scavenge for tiny flecks of gold. This 15-year-old girl is working all day in the gold pits, rather than being in school.

Geoffrey York/The Globe and Mail

Canadians who donate to charities working in the Sahel region of west Africa will have their donations matched dollar-for-dollar by the federal government until Sept. 30, Ottawa announced Tuesday.

"We need to act now to prevent a major humanitarian crisis," said parliamentary secretary Lois Brown, who made the funding announcement on behalf of Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino.

A severe drought last year, poor harvests and rising food costs have helped contribute to a food crisis in the Sahel region, Ms. Brown said.

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Some of the nine countries in that area, including Mali, are also dealing with political turmoil and violence as the crisis deepens.

This is the second time this year the Harper government has committed funds to help the Sahel region. In early 2012, $47.5-million of federal funds were dedicated to support relief efforts there.

In this new program, named the Sahel Crisis Matching Fund, the federal government will match funds that are raised by registered Canadian charities from Aug. 7 to Sept. 30. The Canadian International Development Agency will then allocate the money to organizations working in the Sahel region.

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