Humanitarian relief workers have warned that about 5 million people in the Sahel are suffering from severe hunger and are in urgent need of food and livelihood assistance.
The affected countries are: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. Those in need of food assistance are expected to deplete their food reserves by the end of the month.
The hunger and food shortage has been brought on by unusual weather conditions that limited crop growth. In normal weather conditions food supplies usually last into September.
Abdou Dieng, the Regional Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) for West and Central Africa commented on the crisis:
“We are hearing of people cutting down the number of daily meals and children dropping out of school”
“Those are telling signs of a looming disaster that the world cannot continue to ignore”
Many fear that children have been worst affected by the hunger, with over 1.6 million vulnerable to developing severe acute malnutrition this year. This is a 50% increase compared to the Sahel’s last major nutrition crisis in 2012.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, the Regional Director for West and Central Africa at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted:
“[it is] tragic that the same mothers are coming back to the clinics year after year with their children for treatment”
“We can break this cycle if we invest now in building resilience – making families, communities and national authorities better equipped to prevent and deal with similar shocks in the future”
For Africa, strengthening resilience to climate change and food insecurity is key. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have made this a primary focus of their work in Africa.
Coumba Sow, the Sub-Regional Coordinator for Resilience for FAO across the region highlighted this:
“What will help stabilize the Sahel is support for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, during this lean season and in the future, to cope with shocks that include climate change and conflicts”
To mitigate the current crisis the, WFP, UNICEF and the FAO have launched a joint response initiative to provide emergency food supplies, protect livelihoods and address malnutrition. Together they will provide food to 3.5 million, protect 1 million children from severe acute malnutrition and prevent further deterioration for 2.5 million farmers and their family.
The organisations have also collaborated on longer term initiatives to increase the region’s resilience to climate shocks and conflicts. The plans involve improving access to local food resources and strengthening health and social services at community and country level.
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Image credit: FAO