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

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs