Sahel Crisis: Regional Food Emergency Intensifies in Mali, Mauritania

As a military coup upends Mali and harvest failures threaten Mauritania, Action Against Hunger gets to work
A vulnerable mother in Mali receives rations. Photo: L. Grosjean, ACF-Mali.
A vulnerable mother in Mali receives rations. Photo: L. Grosjean, ACF-Mali.

As the regional food crisis intensifies in Africa’s Sahel region, we’ve worked to provide you with the latest information. Most recently, we wrote about the situation on the ground in Chad, where food shortages, price hikes, and drought have put many thousands of children in danger. Indeed, one million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition across the region. This week we shift our focus to Chad’s neighboring countries of Mali and Mauritania, where we’re working to scale up our operations to meet growing needs.

Helping Mali’s displaced in the wake of a military coup

Two weeks ago, a group of soldiers seized the presidential palace in Mali’s capital, Bamako. They dissolved the democratically-elected government and suspended the country’s constitution. Malians, already subject to a growing food crisis triggered by drought-like conditions, are now grappling with political unrest that has already uprooted more than 65,000 people from their homes.

“These are families who have had to hastily flee the violence. They lack even the most basic items needed to care for their families, like cooking utensils, blankets, and clothing.”

—Helena Valencia, Emergency Team Leader, Action Against Hunger

With one in five families in Mali already struggling to support a child with severe acute malnutrition, we knew we needed to scale up our emergency operations quickly. We activated an emergency agreement with the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, which will cover the basic needs of 8,000 displaced Malians. We’re also running general food distributions for families with severely malnourished children, and strengthening the capacity of 31 nutritional centers to diagnose and treat those affected.

Combating acute malnutrition outbreaks in Mauritania

In Mauritania, the combination of a severe rainfall deficit, rising grain prices, and plummeting livestock prices have decimated food stocks and left millions in need of assistance. Estimates indicate that a full third of the country’s population, around a million people, are at risk of deadly malnutrition. In some communities in the Gorgol region, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition has doubled in just two months. Fatimata Diop, an Action Against Hunger nutritionist, warns that the months ahead will be extremely challenging. “We fear an exponential increase in cases of malnutrition, and the crisis will become catastrophic if it doesn’t rain by July,” she said.

“We have no time to lose in trying to protect Mauritania’s most vulnerable children. Without ready-to-use foods and other emergency rations, even more children will become acutely malnourished.”

—Mohamen Ghaly, Action Against Hunger Nutritionist

In response to this potential humanitarian catastrophe, we’re ramping up our efforts to prevent and treat severe acute malnutrition while distributing emergency food rations to help the most vulnerable. Our teams are also monitoring preexisting infrastructure projects, like the rain water collection dam and solar-panel-powered irrigation system we installed in the community of Ndiokoudi. These projects help families maintain cultivated land and small gardens during the dry season, and, coupled with our emergency response activities, should help communities cope with current shortages and future crises.

We remain committed to helping 800,000 people across the Sahel region—in Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. Thank you for your supportin achieving our goal to save lives. We will continue to update you about our efforts on the ground.

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