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Countries Affected by Climate Change Look to Summit for Help

Relief officials in Africa say environmental studies since the 1970's have shown the steady advance of the desert and irregular rains cause floods and drought in Sahelian countries

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As officials from more than 100 nations begin talks in Copenhagen on a new global climate deal, Sahelian countries already affected by climate change want the conference to help them adapt to shifting agricultural production.  

At the last global climate change conference in Kyoto, the United Nations established a fund to address the "urgent and immediate" needs of developing countries.

The Least Developed Countries Fund prioritized more than 400 climate-change projects.  But eight years later, a study by the Danish government says just one of those projects has been funded.

Relief officials in Africa say the Copenhagen must do a better job of addressing the needs of developing countries.  Thomas Yanga directs operations for the U.N. World Food Program in West and Central Africa.

For some people, climate change is a new phenomena that will impact them in the future.  But Yanga says many others have been living with the negative consequences of climate change for years.

In Sahelian countries, for example, Yanga says environmental studies since the 1970's have shown the steady advance of the desert and irregular rains that cause floods and drought.

Yanga says the World Food Program hopes the Copenhagen summit takes into account communities that are already living with the impact of climate change and are now more vulnerable to changes in their way of live.  Climatic studies predict agricultural production in Sahelian countries could be cut in half by 2020.

Yanga says one of the most significant impacts of climate change is the migration of people abandoning lands where they have lived for centuries.  He says the World Food Program is working to stabilize the environmental impact of climate change by planting trees, re-fertilizing soil, and better managing limited supplies of water.

Yanga says for the Copenhagen summit, the World Food Program is asking donors to help people live decently by ensuring food security in areas affected by climate change, where  there are already higher rates of malnutrition.

Poor rains in the Sahel this year mean harvests for staple food crops will likely be one-third lower than normal levels in Niger, northern Nigeria, central Chad and northeastern Mali and Burkina Faso.  

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