Footballers from four countries participating in the African Cup of Nations have appealed to the international community to act against a looming food crisis in the Sahel, aid agency Oxfam said Friday.
The international agency has filmed messages from more than 25 footballers to be aired throughout the tournament which begins Saturday.
Mali and Barcelona star Seydou Keita said in an Oxfam statement: "If we act now we could save the lives of women and children who are always the first victims of food crises."
Other footballers who have called on the international community to "win the match against hunger" include Charles Kabore from Burkina Faso, Demba Ba from Senegal and Lawali Idrissa from Niger.
Oxfam warns that more than one million children are threatened with severe malnutrition after poor rains in 2011 led to a 25 per cent drop in harvests compared with 2010, and pushed up food prices.
A food crisis in the region in 2010 affected 10 million people.
"While the situation in the Sahel is serious, the worst is not yet inevitable if we act swiftly. We know about this coming crisis months earlier than we have in the past, meaning we can act now to save more lives and protect the livelihoods of many more people." said Oxfam spokesman Eric Hazard.