The Leprosy Mission has launched its first ever emergency appeal in response to the food crisis in West Africa.
The charity warns that the region is facing a "full-scale humanitarian crisis", with people leaving their homes in search of food.
It said that people affected by leprosy were among those "most at risk" in the West African nation of Niger, where the charity funds treatment services at CSL Danja Hospital.
Staff at the hospital have handed out millet to families affected by leprosy but stocks are "dangerously low", the charity said.
The food crisis has been triggered by a poor harvest which caused food prices to skyrocket.
National Director of the Leprosy Mission England & Wales, Peter Walker, said he was compelled to launch the Emergency Hunger Response after hearing first-hand reports from staff visiting Danja.
He said leprosy-affected people were in a "desperate" situation.
“Leprosy-affected people are among Niger’s most marginalised and are severely hungry," he said.
“While there are no guarantees to the success of this year’s harvest, we feel it is our responsibility to ensure these people stay alive at a time when food is scarce.
“Leprosy is a disease of poverty and each year we treat and support thousands of people caught in the grip of this, often devastating, disease. But never before have we witnessed a natural disaster such as this threatening the existence of thousands of people we are striving to help.
“While we are facing our own economic challenges in the UK, it takes relatively little – just £32 – to keep a leprosy-affected family of six fed for a full month.
“I would urge people to help if at all possible and think of those suffering as a result of this devastating crisis.”
Funds raised by the appeal will go towards providing food for families as well as the resources to help improve their food security, such as tree saplings, donkeys and carts for their farms.
To donate, visit www.leprosymission.org.uk/donate
or call 01733 370505.