West Africa: Humanitarian Needs Rise in Sahel

Photo: FAO
Food crisis in the Sahel.

Dakar — Humanitarian agencies have revised upwards their appeal to help Sahelians affected by hunger, malnutrition, impoverishment and conflict to US$1.7 billion, said UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Robert Piper.

"The Sahel is always in crisis mode," Piper told journalists at a Dakar press conference.

Some 11.3 million Sahelians are estimated to be short of food this year and 1.5 million under-fives acutely malnourished.

As of May 2013, 345,000 acutely malnourished children had been treated in UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and NGO-run nutrition centres. But despite year-on-year nutrition support, surveys show malnutrition rates of over 10 percent in almost all of the countries, and above the 15 percent threshold in parts of Chad, Mauritania and Niger.

In Mauritania one third of the population is food-insecure.

Most vulnerable are families who were affected by the 2012 drought, and who have not yet recovered their animal or seed stocks, and the half a million Malians displaced by conflict in the north. But even Mali - the most "visible and acute" crisis in the region, with 3.5 million people estimated to be food-insecure - has received just 29 percent of the funding called for.

Just 35 percent of the amount needed - US$607 million - has been received thus far, leaving a US$1 billion shortfall. The funds received are unevenly spread, said Piper. "We recognize the response that has been given, but we are concerned that it is not equally spread across all sectors."

Agriculture is just 23 percent funded, meaning it is already too late to get the necessary seeds to farmers to plant in time for the rains.

"We have missed a window of opportunity here to support agriculture and reduce the number of farmers in need of aid. We cannot distribute the seeds that are needed [for rain-fed agriculture] but there is still a lot that can be done," said Piper, pointing to livestock vaccinations during the rainy season, getting animal fodder where it is needed, and getting seeds to farmers who plant on flood plains during the rainy season (the harvest is in late August).

Other severely under-funded sectors include water and sanitation (11 percent) and health (26 percent), both of which underpin infant nutrition; as well as education (10 percent), and early recovery (8 percent).

Most Malian refugee students living in camps are unable to go to school because of the lack of funds.

Interestingly, early recovery is not prioritized by donors (despite much talk of the need to boost resilience in the Sahel this year) to make vulnerable families less reliant on aid and more able to cope with harsh climatic conditions and endemic poverty.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.

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InFocus

UN Appeals for U.S. $1.7 in Sahel Aid

Food crisis in the Sahel.

With millions of Sahelians estimated to be short of food this year, humanitarian agencies have revised their appeal upwards to U.S.$1.7 billion in order to help combat hunger, ... Read more »