OTTAWA - The federal government's call on Canadians to help drought-stricken residents of Africa's Sahel belt got an underwhelming response in the dog days of summer.
That's how Julian Fantino, Canada's new international co-operation minister, sees the $1.8 million that Canadians have donated since the appeal went out Aug. 7.
The federal government kicked off the campaign by contributing $10 million for the troubled African region, where 18 million people in several African countries face a combination of drought, starvation, rising food prices and political instability.
Fantino is urging Canadians to make their contributions before Sept. 30 to ensure public donations are matched by Ottawa.
Fantino made the appeal from Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where he travelled to refugee camps accompanied by representatives of a number of leading aid agencies.
Ottawa has cut its overall aid budget in the last federal budget by about 7.5 per cent, after saying it would be frozen until at least 2015 to fight the deficit in Canada.