South Africa's first consignment of humanitarian aid for one of four drought-stricken countries in the Sahel region in North Africa departed by air for Niger on Monday.
This follows a commitment to help the four countries - Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad - made by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane during a meeting of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council in Bamako, Mali in March.
The aid to Niger will take the form of four consignments by air of 100 tonnes of maize power boost and nutrition suitable for children under five years.
"This will be followed by a mixed consignment of maize power boost and a bio-pesticide requested by the government of Niger to fight food crop infestations," the Department of International Relations and Cooperations said on Friday.
"Also included will be 12 000 protection kits for use during the application of the bio-pesticides."
A shipment of fertilizer, animal feed and a further amount of maize power boost will follow by sea towards the end of the year.
"Together with the government of Niger, South Africa will assist in the production of nine-million doses of PPR vaccine for inoculating livestock," the department added.
Concern over Sahel region
The Sahel is an eco-climatic transition zone between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south. According to Wikipedia, it forms a belt up to 1 000 km wide spanning Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
The Sahara Desert takes up much of the land area of the four core Sahelian countries: Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad. About 80% of the people living in the region are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods and are regularly affected by droughts, floods and locust swarms.
The AU Peace and Security Council, at its meeting in March, expressed deep concern over the humanitarian crisis facing several countries in the Sahel region due to environmental degradation, climate change and food insecurity.
The challenges have been aggravated by developments in the Maghreb region, especially by the crisis in Libya, the influx of internally displaced persons, as well as the increase in transnational organised crime, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons.
The council called for a more comprehensive and better-coordinated approach in addressing the situation in the Sahel region.