Imminent danger of famine in the Sahel

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lower levels of precipitation in the Sahel region since 1970

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that an estimated number of sixteen million people may soon suffer from food shortages in the Sahel region. UNICEF prepares for a worst case scenario of providing food for 1.5 million children with acute malnutrition.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced that by Tuesday the United Nations had so far only received about a quarter of the US$1 billion required for the imminent food crisis; the United Nations had appealed to the international community for donations.

The situation is further complicated by Tuareg separatists in Mali, which are a security risk to the charities and have displaced residents to other states of the Sahel, as well as by workers in Niger, who have returned from Libya or Nigeria, but found no occupation in Niger. The government of Niger has initiated a program for this group consisting of relief food aid and labor schemes.

"We witnessed last year the situation spiraling out of control in East Africa as the aid community failed to act swiftly," explained Mamadou Biteye, the regional director of Oxfam for West Africa: "The worst can be avoided and thousands of lives will be saved if we act now. It's that simple."

The last food crises were the 2011 East Africa drought in the Horn of Africa and the 2010 Sahel famine.