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 »