Race against time to avert hunger in the Sahel

Race against time to avert hunger in the Sahel © ADRA India

08/02/2012 – The European Commission is scaling up its humanitarian assistance to €123.5 million for the Sahel region of West Africa where 12 million people are at risk of hunger. Combined with at least €150 million of development assistance, it brings the Commission's funding for the Sahel so far this year to almost €275 million. But it's estimated that €700 million are required to cover the next 6 months.

Amid increasing recognition by the international community of the urgent need to contain the looming food crisis, leading donors, including all EU Member States, the United States of America, Canada, Brazil and others have met today in Brussels to discuss how best to help the 12 million people in greatest need across the Sahel.

Among others present was Djime Adoum, the Chadian minister for agriculture and head of the Sahel's regional organisation to combat drought (CILSS), Catherine Bragg, the UN's Assistant Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, as well as representatives from international humanitarian agencies including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Oxfam. All addressed this high level international meeting and explained the action needed from the perspectives of each of their organisations.

Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, during a visit to the region last month said that "All the early warning signs are flashing red; malnutrition rates are steadily rising, the price of food is increasing, the displacement of large numbers of people and their livestock has started. The EU has taken immediate action and I urge others to do the same". Today these words were echoed by many and there was strong consensus on the needs and response that is now required.

Five Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) have declared an emergency and called for international assistance. Commissioner Georgieva, added: "The governments of the region need to be supported in their efforts to avert this crisis. The early warnings of this crisis have helped prepare a prompt emergency response. But without well-designed intervention now there is a high risk of a full-blown food crisis by June. By acting now we can save a lot more lives as well as avoiding the additional burdens which come with reacting when the situation is already reaching its peak."

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