A Year After Crisis in the Sahel, Key Challenges Remain

Conditions in the Sahel have improved but increased funding is needed to help millions still suffering
Mother and daughter Mauritania
More help is needed to support children like this Mauritanian girl. Photo: A. Garcia

Since the 2012 hunger crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, conditions have improved but an estimated 11.3 million people remain threatened by hunger and 1.5 million are at risk of acute malnutrition. International support for the humanitarian response has been unprecedented but remains insufficient.

In 2012, 18 million people in the Sahel faced life-threatening food shortages brought on by drought, poverty, and drastic food price increases. The humanitarian community’s scale-up and response to the crisis led to the treatment of over 925,000 children for severe acute malnutrition (SAM), 85,000 of whom were treated by Action Against Hunger’s teams. Over the past year, the rains and harvests have improved but hunger in the Sahel region is still a major concern for us.

Millions still at risk

11.3 million people currently living with food insecurity in the Sahel are close to entering a period of famine. In addition to the millions of people who are food insecure, 1.5 million children under the age of five are at severe risk of malnutrition. More than 600,000 refugees and about 444,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), who have fled unstable northern Nigeria and Mali, are in need of assistance. According to UNICEF thousands of children suffering from undernutrition have been admitted to health centers across the Sahel. Without sufficient support for the summer lean season, a period of low harvest due to poor rainfall, the needs of very poor and vulnerable households, in particular, will increase in coming months.

Insufficient financing

Despite the outpouring of international support following the Sahel crisis, funding for long-term and emergency programs remains inadequate. The United Nations Consolidated appeal has only netted 36% of the funds needed. Breaking this down by sector, only 32% of nutrition, 25% of health, and 11% of water and sanitation funding needs have been met.

“The response from the international community and governments in the region before the crisis of 2012 was unprecedented but even today, 11.3 million people need urgent assistance and tens of millions live in a situation of permanent vulnerability. We need to maintain and build on the progress that was made last year, and do more to help people prepare to cope with and recover from the diverse and recurrent strokes affecting the Sahel region.”

—Anais Lafite, West Africa Regional Representative, Action Against Hunger

Moving forward

Increased funding is crucial to the 2013 Sahel humanitarian response. Food access remains a major issue. Basic food prices have remained above average for the past five years in many parts of the region, which negatively impacts families who depend on markets to meet most of their food needs. Floods in northern Nigeria, provider of 50% of the region’s cereal, have had a major impact on the production, distribution, and pricing of food.

In order to expand the humanitarian response, long-term investments must be made into programs that address the root causes of malnutrition and vulnerability. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Action Against Hunger will continue to work hard to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of the Sahel’s population.

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About Paula Assou

Paula Assou

Paula is an intern in the External Relations Department, helping tell Action Against Hunger’s story across multiple channels.