There are 18 million people facing hunger and malnutrition across 8 countries of the Sahel region of West Africa. This figure includes 1 million children who are exposed to severe malnutrition. This food crisis will peak in the coming weeks and many risk death if they do not receive humanitarian assistance. It was against this backdrop that the European Commission convened a high level meeting on 18 June, aiming to address the emergency in the short-term and to establish a new partnership to strengthen the resilience of the Sahel to future crises over the long-term. The product of the meeting; a joint declaration entitled AGIR Sahel (Alliance Globale pour l'Initiative Resilience). The document represents a partnership on building resilience to food crises in the Sahel between a multitude of governments, humanitarian organisations, UN agencies and other organisations such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and two regional organisations (ECOWAS and UEMOA). This new partnership has one core aim: to make sure that the people in the Sahel can better cope with future droughts.
It is hoped that this joint declaration will provide a roadmap for strengthening the resilience of people who have tool long been the victims of chronic malnutrition in this region of West Africa. Among the topics around which consensus was found was the need for a minimum investment of €750 million by 2015 to build social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable if and when drought hits again in the future. Also discussed was the need to draw on expertise from the private sector to help get money to people in need quickly and effectively. At the meeting and in the declaration, reference was also made to the crisis in northern Mali, all representatives expressed their concern at how this conflict is compounding the current food crisis. To read the text of the declaration click here.
On the margins of the meeting, the European Commission announced an increase in its humanitarian funding to Sahel by €40 million, bringing its response to the food crisis to €318 million. The European Commission is the leading humanitarian donor in the Sahel, its funds reaching between 6 to 7 million people.