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Looming hunger crisis in Sahel: Commission acts to save lives

A man with his donkey and cart in Kalma Camp, Dafur © EU
21/11/2011  - 

The European Commission is increasing its funding to the Sahel region of Africa to safeguard the lives of half a million people experiencing the rapidly developing food crisis.

Seven million people are already facing food shortages in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. The situation is likely to worsen in 2012.

The Commission is therefore adding €10 million in humanitarian funding to the €45 million it has given to the Sahel already this year. This means that a further 500 000 men, women and children – in addition to the 6.2 million already being reached with our funding – in the worst affected areas will be protected at the start of the lean period.

‘By acting ahead of the crisis we can avoid the terrible suffering that has struck in another part of Africa this year,’ said Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

‘The extent of this emergency will only be visible in a few months, when the poorest will have no food reserves or money to buy much dearer food, as prices are already rising.

‘Tragically there has not been sufficient time since the last crisis in 2010 for a population already weakened by hunger to recover. That is the vicious circle we want to break, but one single donor will not be able to face this huge challenge. I call on everybody to respond to this emergency before it becomes a crisis.’

The majority of Sahel's population is heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture and livestock, but the current season has been bad for both, due to erratic rainfall and dry spells. Growing world market prices for rice undermine rice import levels and push up prices in West Africa. As a consequence many of the poorest households will lose adequate food access. Niger and Mauritania have already declared a crisis.

The Commission has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response to malnutrition in the Sahel since 2007, when a specific Sahel Plan was adopted to raise awareness of nutrition issues, demonstrate the effectiveness of nutrition action, and advocate for an enhanced focus on nutrition issues. The Commission has allocated over €235 million to the fight against malnutrition in the Sahel since 2007.