|Sahel: Food Crisis Rapidly Worsening|
More than 18 million people in need of emergency assistance as G8 meets to discuss long-term hunger solutions in Africa
ATLANTA (May 18, 2012) – Leaders at the humanitarian organization CARE are calling attention to a new report showing that the vast food crisis in West Africa’s Sahel region is deteriorating fast and now affects more than 18 million people in need of emergency assistance.
The new report from the Food Crisis Prevention Network comes as G8 leaders meet to discuss long-term solutions to recurrent hunger crises in Africa. The report indicates that, as of March, significant portions of every nation in the western Sahel were already experiencing “critical” levels of hunger. Worse yet, parts of Mali and Mauritania were suffering “extreme” levels of hunger one step short of the “catastrophe” stage.
Maps in the report show that additional large areas of Niger’s most populous regions will reach critical food insecurity and a wide swath of Chad will fall into extreme food insecurity. The emergency is expected to intensify through the summer. The next possible grain harvest in the region is not until October. Poor rains, environmental degradation and pests sharply reduced yields during the last harvest, while conflict, political instability and soaring prices have made it more difficult for many in this chronically poor region to buy grain at market.
“We are in the midst of a huge crisis where millions of lives hang in the balance, so it is particularly timely the G8 summit will discuss food security in Africa this week,” says CARE USA President and CEO Helene Gayle. “CARE urges G8 leaders to highlight the Sahel as they address long-term commitments to improving food security in Africa.”
Recurrent cycles of drought and hunger in Africa will be one of the subjects covered this weekend during the G8 Summit at Camp David in the U.S. CARE commends the U.S. administration for making long-term food security and resiliency a priority at the G8 and urges an immediate and appropriate response to the growing Sahel crisis. The new data from the Food Crisis Prevention Network, summarized in a report published by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme, underscores the urgency of the situation in the Sahel.
The report combines data from several key humanitarian groups working in the region to rate food insecurity using a five-phase scale. Phase 5 is the worst condition and indicates catastrophe. Large areas of every country in West Africa’s Sahel region have already reached Phase 3 (Critical) and Phase 4 (Extreme) food insecurity. According to a March 2012 study conducted by a group of nongovernmental organizations including CARE, all families surveyed in two regions of Niger had already reduced their daily food intake because they simply did not have enough to eat. Most expect to completely run out of food before the next harvest.
CARE is on the ground in Chad, Mali and Niger where 13.5 million people are affected by this crisis and almost 2 million are at risk of malnutrition and in dire need of assistance. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, especially those under the age of 2. Exacerbating the situation is fighting in northern Mali which has prompted massive population movements within Mali and from Mali to Niger.
CARE’s emergency response and recovery program is providing access to food via cash transfer and direct distribution, and improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene. At the same time CARE’s long-term development programs such as women-led savings groups and cereal banks help people build and protect assets. In CARE’s experience, empowering women strengthens community resilience during crises.
Resources: The full Food Crisis Prevention Network report is available as a downloadable PDF here. A moving map showing the projected worsening of the Sahel food crisis through June is available here.
About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity.