08/08/2012 07:22 EDT | Updated 10/08/2012 05:12 EDT

How You Can Help the West African Famine


I'm thrilled the Government of Canada announced this morning it has agreed to match charitable donations made by Canadians to provide humanitarian relief to West Africa. I've seen how devastating the famine has been.

Not long ago, I interviewed 72-year-old Gori Ngoko in the village of M'Beighir, approximately 550 km

South-East of Nouakchott, Mauritania.

"You can see it in our eyes and faces how tired we are, how much we have suffered," he says. "I've lived a long life, and have seen people and animals suffer, but never as much as now. We don't know how this will end, but we don't want to see what being worse than this is like."

Gori was one of the few men left in his village of approximately 100 people in West Africa's Sahel region.

The younger men and older boys have left with the remaining cattle in search of pasture in Mali or

Senegal. Now only the old men, women and children are still there. The pastures in Gori's village have long turned to dust.

With more than 18 million people at risk of severe malnutrition, including more than a million children, the need for intervention is growing every day.

With their families separated, children have little food and little protection from potential dangers such as abuse and child trafficking. They are also at risk of dropping out of school to help their families find food and work. Not to mention the stress and worry they experience watching their parents struggle to provide the basics day-to-day.

I see the men across the Sahel in a race against time. They must find a way to feed their herds or risk more than just their livelihoods. I heard that 100,000 of these animals died from illness when a sudden, cold rain proved to be the last straw for the hungry and weak herds.

It's bewildering; everywhere you look, the landscape is a solid embodiment of flesh, bone, life and

death -- side by side. Carcasses of donkeys, cows, goats and camels litter road and desert alike.

"The more the animals are affected, the more the people will be too," Gori's explains. But there are tangible ways you can help:

1) Learn more about the crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa.

2) Use your influence in spreading the message on your social networks about this growing crisis.

3) Support a registered charity and have your dollars go further in helping to provide nutritional

food, water, seeds, and livestock to the families in need.