News / Africa

Aid Agencies Call for Different Way to Fight Sahel Hunger

Boys walk on desert sands in the town of Moghtar-Lajjar in west Africa's Sahel region, where the United Nations says civil unrest and a drought have put 18 million people in food insecurity, May 25 2012.Boys walk on desert sands in the town of Moghtar-Lajjar in west Africa's Sahel region, where the United Nations says civil unrest and a drought have put 18 million people in food insecurity, May 25 2012.
x
Boys walk on desert sands in the town of Moghtar-Lajjar in west Africa's Sahel region, where the United Nations says civil unrest and a drought have put 18 million people in food insecurity, May 25 2012.
Boys walk on desert sands in the town of Moghtar-Lajjar in west Africa's Sahel region, where the United Nations says civil unrest and a drought have put 18 million people in food insecurity, May 25 2012.
Anne Look
DAKAR, Senegal — Aid agencies are calling for a new approach to tackling hunger in Africa's Sahel region, which is struggling through its third severe food crisis in a decade. A new report by World Vision and Save the Children looks at alarming rates of chronic child malnutrition for clues on how to break the cycle of food emergencies in the region.

2011 saw a record harvest in Niger. However, nearly as many malnourished children were admitted to treatment centers that year as in 2010, the year of a severe drought and devastating food shortages throughout the Sahel. Why?

The answer to that question, according to a new study by World Vision and Save the Children, holds the key to what is driving yet another food crisis in the Sahel.

Better access to food is essential

Child malnutrition, the study says, does not necessarily mean there is not enough food. It means people can not access it. They can't afford it.

"The issue of food, nutrition and people not having enough to eat, it's been looked at mainly from the supply side, if you look at the science of economics," said Paul Sitnam, World Vision's Regional Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Director. "But now, what we're trying to say is let's look at it from the demand side, the access side," said Sitnam. 'Even when there is no food production, there is also food there because of trade and other stores - people have stored up some food. It's just that people who are so poor, and even with subsidies sometimes, they can't access the food that's available in the market."

The study is part of a gradual shift in the humanitarian approach to hunger in the Sahel that is upending the traditional logic that increasing agricultural production will ultimately reduce food prices, head off food shortages and improve nutrition in the long term.

The study says this "supply-driven" approach is not helping the poorest 25 percent of small-scale farmers in the Sahel.

Providing a lifeline to struggling families

Instead, World Vision and Save the Children say preventing future crises hinges on increasing families' "resilience" to shocks. A shock could be anything from locusts, a rapid doubling in grain prices or the drought that led to this year's poor harvests.

The study says reducing chronic child malnutrition and promoting small-scale agriculture are essential to helping families weather the inevitable storms.

The current food crisis in the Sahel threatens 18 million people, many of whom have not yet recovered from losing their livestock or their livelihoods during the last food crisis in 2010.

This "resilience deficit," as the study calls it, is what Sitnam says is driving the current, and potentially future, disasters.

"They're poor already and they're getting poorer. Why? Because they are getting hit by a crisis; they start picking themselves up slowly and another crisis hits them," he said. "Again they go down, they try to get up, another crisis hits them. So it's continual. They don't have enough time to catch their breath and to build up their assets so they can resist the next shock. The thrust of what we're saying is let's give them assets.  Let's give them the capacity to access whatever food there is so they can resist better these shocks which will come again."

New approaches offered

Humanitarian agencies increasingly have explored "cash for work" and "cash distribution" strategies in the Sahel in recent years.

Sitnam said governments and aid agencies reacted quickly to this year's crisis and hopefully have averted a "worst-case scenario." The situation on the ground, though, remains difficult.

"There are people in Mali and Niger who are reduced from two to one meal a day, Sitham said. "They are sending their children to the cities to look for work or live with relatives. They are taking their kids out of school. They are foraging for food that may not be the best for them. They're trying to go out and earn money to buy whatever food there is on the market. As I've said, there is a big access problem."

The study says short-term emergency food assistance, while important during an acute crisis, cannot address underlying vulnerability and the high rates of malnutrition among hundreds of thousands of children in the Sahel during non-crisis years.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More