Sahel: Partnership is key to addressing crisis

22 October, 2012
Delegates from OIC listen to a representative from FAO on the difference supplying improved seeds makes in the lives of farmers in Niger. Credit: OCHA/Franck Kuwonu
Delegates from OIC listen to a representative from FAO on the difference supplying improved seeds makes in the lives of farmers in Niger. Credit: OCHA/Franck Kuwonu

A high-level humanitarian partnership delegation hosted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and OCHA concluded its mission to the Sahel region of West Africa in Burkina Faso on Sunday with a call for strengthened resilience and a collective response to the food and nutrition crisis.

“We should not underestimate the severity of the crisis in the Sahel region,” said Pascal Karorero, Humanitarian Coordinator in Burkina Faso. “No single country or organization can stop the vicious cycle of hunger which costs hundreds of thousands of lives, even when there is no acute crisis.”
 
More than 18 million people across the region do not have enough to eat. The food and nutrition crisis has been exacerbated by the conflict in northern Mali and recent floods which have affected some 3 million people. About 320,000 people have fled the fighting in Mali to neighbouring countries including Niger and Burkina Faso. 
 
Delegates from several OIC and UN Member States, regional inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and Red Crescent Societies visited Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso during the week-long mission, which was aimed at highlighting the regional crisis and the need for strengthened humanitarian partnerships between local authorities, inter-governmental organizations and aid agencies. 
 
“We have learned a lot in our interactions with the Governments and humanitarian partners,” said Ambassador Yehia Lawal, Director of the OIC Office in Jeddah. “We went to the field and saw what a difference working together can make in the lives of farmers and children, and we are committed to playing our part.”     
 
Delegates visited a FAO-supported agricultural project and a UNICEF-supported paediatric ward in Niger. In Mali, where more than half a million children suffer from malnutrition, they visited a nutrition centre in the south-western region of Koulikoro. Nearly a third of the Malian population is food insecure, most of whom live in areas in the south affected by droughts.  
 
The delegation also visited Malian refugees at a camp in Burkina Faso. UN agencies and humanitarian partners are providing aid to the refugees as well as responding to chronic food insecurity affecting 3 million people in Burkina Faso. So far this year, they have provided food assistance to more than 800,000 people and agricultural support to about 600,000 people.   
 
Despite the enormous needs, the humanitarian community has only received 59 per cent of the funding needed for live-saving projects and longer-term support in the Sahel this year. 
 
“This mission comes at a crucial time,” said Karorero. “We need to find a new paradigm to reinforce the capacity of vulnerable families to cope with recurrent crises. This is the only way to make a sustainable change in the lives of millions of people in the Sahel.”