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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid