Goats are rounded up for a vaccination program run by Oxfam in Saraf, Guera Province, Chad (picture credit: Andy Hall/Oxfam, 9 Feb 2012).
In 2012, countries across the Sahel are once again facing a serious food crisis as the rains have failed to come. This ecologically fragile region is becoming even more vulnerable as grazing areas for livestock are disappearing, affecting millions of pastoralists across this region of Africa.
Grazing areas for their livestock are also fast disappearing, and as a result, their livelihoods are being threatened as the desertification takes its grip.
Oxfam is working to raise USD37 million to reach around one million people across the Sahel region with vital aid such as food, cash, support to livestock, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion campaigns (West Africa Food Crisis Appeal). By investing more in longer-term interventions to reduce the people’s vulnerability to external shocks, Oxfam hopes to help break the hunger cycle in the Sahel.
‘Some 13 million people are at severe risk from a food crisis which is set to escalate into a full-scale humanitarian emergency in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa if urgent action is not taken . . . .
‘Across Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal malnutrition rates hover between 10 and 15 percent, and in some areas rates have risen beyond the emergency threshold level of 15 percent. Over one million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
‘In parts of Chad some villagers have been reduced to pounding ant hills to gather grain the ants have stored. They say unless they get help they will have to abandon their villages in a month’s time. . . .
‘The agency said that a lethal mix of drought, high food prices, entrenched poverty and regional conflict is behind the crisis.
‘Across the region, food prices are higher by on average 25 to 50 percent compared with the last five years average. Prices could increase by another 25–30 percent by the peak of the hunger season in July–August, putting the most vulnerable families at increased risk of malnutrition.
‘The hunger season has started early in the Tillabery region in western Niger. Communities have seen their food stocks dwindle and their debts pile up. Families are migrating to the cities in search of food and jobs. Some 33,000 children have dropped out of school, according to government’s figures, as they follow their parents.
‘Erratic rains have caused a poor harvest especially in Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso. Added to this people have had little time to recover from the food crisis of 2010. People have also been hit by an increase in the frequency and severity of food crises in the Sahel region in the last decade. . . .
‘According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, agricultural production in the region is down 25 per cent from 2010. The grain harvest is down by 1.4 million tonnes (metric tonnes) for the six Sahelian countries. The most affected country is Mauritania, with a 52 percent drop in crop production from last year, while Chad’s food production is down by 50 percent and Niger’s is 27 percent. . . .
‘Oxfam said that with the next harvests not due until October a concerted aid effort is needed. . . .’
Read the whole Oxfam press release: Drought could become a catastrophe for 13 million if action not taken in West and Central Africa, Oxfam warns, 9 Mar 2012.