News / Africa

Donors Focus on Sahel Food Crisis

A health worker in Mali checks a child's nutritional status by measuring the upper arm, March 2012. (N. Palus/VOA)
A health worker in Mali checks a child's nutritional status by measuring the upper arm, March 2012. (N. Palus/VOA)
Nancy Palus
DAKAR - Officials from the European Union, the United States, Japan and other countries are meeting today to mobilize aid for some 18 million people facing severe food shortages in West Africa’s Sahel region. Families there are approaching the lean season, with the next harvest months away. But, aid experts say, it is still possible to avoid the worst.
 
Representatives of the affected West African countries are also taking part in Monday’s meeting in Brussels, sponsored by the European Commission.
 
While emergency aid is needed now, officials said it is just as important to invest to avoid future food crises.
 
The U.N. humanitarian office, OCHA, says there is a shortfall of about $900 million for getting urgently needed help to people in nine countries just south of the Sahara desert – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
 
In normal times West Africa’s Sahel region gets very little rainfall, and in recent years rains have decreased even further. OCHA says that even in years when there is not an emergency, nearly a quarter of a million children die annually from malnutrition.
 
Many parts of the region are still reeling from severe shortages in 2010. This year, due to weak harvests, soaring food prices, erratic rains and unrest in parts of the Sahel, some 18 million people face hunger, including one million children.
 
Kristalina Georgieva, in charge of humanitarian aid and crisis response at the European Commission, opened the meeting in Brussels. She said these are not merely numbers.
 
"Behind these figures, we face real human tragedy. When I traveled to Chad and Niger in mid-January, I left from Sofia, from my hometown. One day I was playing with my 18-month old granddaughter, listening to her first words, to her crying and laughing. The next day I was in a clinic for malnourished children in Niger and I realized there, there is nothing more deafening than the silence in a room full of children."
 
Regional food security experts say food prices are higher than average in most markets across the Sahel. In parts of Burkina Faso and Mali, prices of the staples millet and sorghum are between 50 and 100 percent higher than the five-year average.
 
Steve Cockburn, regional campaigns and policy manager for Oxfam in West Africa, says: "Across a region that’s as wide as the U.S., we’re seeing 18 million people pushed to the brink, we’re seeing women who are having to search for grain in anthills, we’re seeing people having to eats roots and leaves just to survive, and that’s entirely unacceptable in any economic conditions in the 21st century."
 
The U.N. says both the international community and regional governments have already done a lot to save lives since seeing early signs of trouble in late 2011, but the gravity of the crisis demands more resources.
  
Georgieva of the European Commission said climate change is expected to put the Sahel at risk for more frequent and more severe droughts. "But," she said, "more droughts need not mean more hunger. If we all, the countries of the region and the international community, make a strong collective and coordinated push for resilience to these droughts. To prevent rather than react."
 
She said Monday’s meeting is aimed in part at mobilizing support for measures already underway in the region to reduce communities’ vulnerability.
 
Food crisis has become almost synonymous with the Sahel, and for years aid groups have talked about the need to "break the hunger cycle." Oxfam’s Cockburn says this is closer to becoming a reality because there is a growing acceptance of the mechanism to do so.
 
"People know there are measures we can take - we can build food reserves across the region and in communities, we can invest in social protection measures to make sure that the incomes of the most vulnerable are protected in times of crisis, and most importantly we can make sure that there’s a growing recognition that we need to invest in small-scale farmers so that they can produce more food and feed their families and their communities," he said.
 
Cockburn pointed out that it is far less expensive to help families produce more food and stay healthy than to treat malnourished children.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs