Archive for the Drought Category

Scavenging Anthills to Survive: A Dispatch from the Sahel Hunger Crisis

Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 10:57 am

By Carol Morgan, Regional Director, Central Africa Region, Concern Worldwide

Hafiza Moussa is three years old and suffering from malaria. He is receiving treatment from a Concern-supported ward (CRENI) at the regional hospital.

I recently returned from the Sahel region of Africa, where a major humanitarian crisis is now unfolding, affecting an estimated 18.7 million people. In the Tahoua region of Niger, where Concern is responding, I saw children who, completely listless from the effects of malnutrition, could not hold down therapeutic milk in overcrowded feeding centers.

The United Nations now estimates that upwards of one million children are at extreme risk of severe acute malnutrition across this semi-arid belt of land along the Sahara desert. Even in ‘non-crisis’ years, 645,000 children die in the Sahel—35 percent of which are linked to malnutrition. This grim reality will never change unless we address the root causes of cyclical hunger.

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Pace of Progress Dangerously Slow on Climate Change

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 at 8:23 am

By Tom Arnold, Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide

The three-day United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which started in Rio de Janeiro today (Wednesday, June 20) presents world leaders with an excellent opportunity to adopt a new approach to climate change that reflects the priorities of the developing world. Called Rio+20, it marks the 20th anniversary of the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development attended by 179 countries which put sustainable development on the global agenda.

The Sahel region of Africa is currently facing a food security crisis that threatens more than 18 million people

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. In the poorest countries where Concern works, the strains caused by climate change are increasingly evident. Erratic seasons, rising droughts and floods, uncertain planting dates, and shorter growing periods for essential staples are all having an impact. For the world’s poor, who overwhelmingly depend on rain-fed agriculture for their survival, the changing patterns of climate, land availability, and food production have caused chaos.

In the Sahel region of Africa, where a current food security crisis threatens more than 18 million people, rainfall has decreased by 25 percent in the last 30 years wreaking havoc on farming communities. Other factors like deforestation, overgrazing, continuous cropping, desertification, and poor water management have also contributed to a deteriorating environment.

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Deepening Food Insecurity Casts Shadow over South Sudan’s First Birthday

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2012 at 8:29 am

By Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

In this region, malnutrition rates rise and fall along with the levels of food available pre- and post-harvest.

On July 9th, the Republic of South Sudan will celebrate its first Independence Day since its secession from the Republic of Sudan in 2011. I recently travelled, first to Juba, the capital, and then to the Aweil West and Aweil North areas of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state—a region bordering the Republic of Sudan where a staggering 800,000 people live below the poverty line.

In this region, malnutrition rates rise and fall along with the levels of food available pre- and post-harvest. In Aweil West, for instance, fluctuations in child malnutrition rates from harvest to the ‘lean season’—the time preceding the harvest when food supplies are at their lowest– doubled from 12 percent to 26 percent in November 2011. Given that a rate of 15 percent is considered to be at emergency-level, it is clear that communities in South Sudan are constantly confronting food insecurity, even in times of what they consider to be ‘plenty.’

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As Food Crisis Looms in Niger, Lives Hang in the Balance

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

By Leila Bourahla, Niger Country Director, Concern Worldwide

For the third time in less than a decade, the Sahel region of West Africa could once again face a food crisis. The most urgent question now is not whether a response is needed, but when it will happen and at what scale.  But perhaps the most important question is: what can we do to reduce the likelihood that we will be having the same conversation, facing the same life-or-death consequences, next year, or the year after?

The landscape in rural Niger. Photo by Tim Peek for Concern Worldwide, 2006.

We saw the deadly costs of delayed intervention last year in the Horn of Africa, where widespread hunger in Ethiopia and Kenya and famine in Somalia led to the deaths of as many as 100,000 people, according to figures collected by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID).  While the early warning signs from East Africa were far more severe than that from West Africa (in Niger, food production was 10-15 percent below average in 2011, but was an estimated75 percent below average in Somalia.), we should take them no less seriously, particularly when it comes to the value of early and preventative action. Read the rest of this entry »

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In the wake of the East Africa crisis, will help arrive in time for the Sahel?

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Paul O’Brien, Overseas Director, Concern Worldwide

Last week, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg announced a contribution of $33 million to support food security, nutrition and short-term cash assistance efforts across the West African region of the Sahel, bringing USAID’s total humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $270 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.  The announcement caused barely a ripple in the US media, and many who heard the news may have even asked ‘What crisis?’ or ‘What’s the Sahel?’  As aid organizations, it is our responsibility to issue and amplify calls to action to respond in the Sahel, and to broadcast the important message that coordinated action now will save lives and prevent costly interventions later – and we have the evidence.

Millet is the staple crop that keeps most people alive in Niger, but this year, drought and poor harvests threaten to leave 13 million people in need of emergency food assistance by April. Photo: Tim Peek for Concern Worldwide US, Tahoua town, Niger

Right now, a series of factors—including volatile spikes in food prices, failed harvests and cyclical drought—have triggered widespread food shortages across the Sahel, according to the USAID Famine Early Warning System Network. Levels of malnutrition among children under five have already reached the internationally recognized emergency threshold of 15 percent in parts of many affected countries, which include Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Way Forward for Children in Kenya’s Urban Slums

Posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Children in class in the Future Kids School in Mathare slum, Nairobi. Photo: Kenya, Concern Worldwide

By Sylvia Wong, Education Officer, Concern Worldwide US

Last month, I was in Kenya visiting Concern’s education and nutrition programs with high school students and teachers. The drought crisis in the Horn of Africa still hadn’t hit the headlines, but one week after we left the US that changed and news spread around the globe that “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” was upon us. The most severe drought in 60 years along with record highs in food and fuel costs meant that over 12 million people were facing extreme hunger and potential starvation in East Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Harambee’ on World Humanitarian Day 2011

Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 at 9:29 am

Anne a mother of four and guardian of seven came to Nairobi as a teenager in search of economic opportunity. Photo: Kenya, Concern Worldwide

By Kirk Prichard, Advocacy Officer, in Nairobi for Concern Worldwide US

World Humanitarian Day recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of those who give others help and hope. This year, it is a celebration of people helping people. In Nairobi, where I have been deployed on short notice to support Concern’s emergency response in the Horn of Africa, I see evidence of people helping people every day. And though international staff like myself are called on to contribute to the relief effort, it is almost entirely powered by Kenyans.

Concern’s Kenya team works in partnership with local organizations that are Kenyan-run, Kenyan-staffed, and crucially, implement Kenya-appropriate programs. It is through these partners that so-called humanitarians and aid workers—too often mistaken as solely western—are enabled to reach the poorest of the poor. Concern’s role is to monitor and assess programs, to provide technical expertise when and where it is needed, and to build the capacity of these local partners. We have been in Kenya since 2002, and we will be here for as long as that role is necessary. Read the rest of this entry »

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