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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs