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 »
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 »
Posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010 at 8:47 am
Aminatou Nomao (12), had many tough questions for Concern on how we choose the villages that receive seeds and cash for our emergency response program.
Niall Tierney, Country Director, Niger
The rains failed in Niger last year: for the members of the aid community who live and work here, that meant more than just hot, dry weather. We shared the sickening knowledge that failed rains in 2009 meant that families in Niger would face the deadly threat of extreme hunger in 2010.
Concern Worldwide began tracking the first signs of this massive food crisis in October and has been in emergency mode since then. We knew we had to act early. We knew that the logistics of delivering traditional food aid in Niger would be costly and difficult. This crisis demanded innovative—and rapid—response. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 at 9:53 am
Most of the women Concern is targeting are illiterate and have no numeracy skills. Concern has trained the women in basic mobile phone skills to help them claim their cash payments. Photo: Niger, Concern Worldwide
I arrived in Niger three months ago to help the Concern Worldwide country team scale up and roll out an emergency program to respond to the emerging food crisis.
It’s hard to say when exactly this shifted from an “impending crisis” to a real humanitarian emergency, but we are there now. And we are putting every bit of the planning this team has done since December to the test.
The official Food Security survey of April 2010 states that there are 7.1 million people facing hunger: 3.3 million of those are considered to be facing extremely food shortages and unable to feed their families’ without help. Concern’s program is in Tahoua, the second worst affected part of the country.
Every day, we are working at maximum capacity on initiatives to prevent rates of malnutrition from reaching emergency thresholds. We are distributing seed packs and fertilizer to help families plant crops in time for the next harvest; providing nutrition support to children under five, pregnant women and mothers; and launching an innovative use of mobile phone technology (and manual transfers) to distribute emergency cash to the most vulnerable women. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on Friday, May 14th, 2010 at 6:00 am
Agaycha Awikguini, a 50-year-old widow receives her first emergency cash transfer from Concern. Photo: Niger, Concern Worldwide
Niger is on the brink of what will be a major catastrophe if the world does not act now. As part of Concern’s Emergency Response Team, I am no stranger to crises: that is why I was sent to Niger on January 10, just two days before the Haiti earthquake.
Millet is the crop that keeps most people alive here. The majority of the country’s population of 15.2 million live by farming or herding livestock—without rain, they do not earn enough income to get by or grow enough food to eat.
The rains last year were erratic, when they came at all. That caused widespread, massive crop failures and 60 percent of the country’s population is now facing hunger. Unless immediate action is taken, close to 378,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition.
A week after I arrived here, I got a call from Haiti from the Head of Concern’s Emergency Unit , saying they were in desperate need of extra hands. But he and I agreed that I needed to stay in Niger. I told him, “The crisis here is going to be big, too. And in just a few months, it’s likely that this team will also be in serious need of emergency reinforcements to respond.”