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Sahel: US$1.6 billion needed to provide aid to more than 18 million people across the region

19 Jun 2012


Young girls eating a mid-day meal at at World Food Programme school feeding centre in Guidam Makadam, Maradai Region, Niger.
Credit: WFP/Phil Behan
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Aid organizations launch new and revised appeals for nine crisis-affected countries in West Africa

The UN and its humanitarian partners today appealed for US$1.6 billion to provide urgent assistance to more than 18 million people affected by the food-and-nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa.

The appeals, which were launched in Geneva, include funding for nine crisis-stricken countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal. The funding is urgently needed to continue providing life-saving and life-sustaining aid including food, nutrition, water, shelter, health services and agricultural support.   
"It is crucial that momentum be maintained in the months to come, not only to address critical needs but also to prepare for rebuilding lives and livelihoods of people affected by the crisis," said David Gressly, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, at the appeal launch.
Sporadic rains, poor harvests, rising food prices, insecurity and displacement have led to the dramatic deterioration of conditions in the region since the beginning of the year. While cereal production has dwindled, food prices have soared.
In Mali, the price of millet, a staple food for many, increased 116 per cent this year. In Niger, the number of food-insecure people increased by 1 million to 6.4 million within the first four months of 2012. During the same period, the number of people affected by the crisis in Chad increased by 120 per cent. Today, more than 1 million children under age 5 are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without proper treatment.   
So far, aid organizations have received more than 40 per cent of the required funding, and have been supporting Government-led plans to provide aid to people affected by the crisis. However, access to remote parts of Mali, Mauritania and Chad remains a challenge. The conflict and insecurity in northern Mali, which has displaced more than 372,000 people, has further exacerbated the food crisis in the region. Some 205,000 Malians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries including Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, which already face a crisis of their own. 
“The number of countries affected has increased partly because of the Mali crisis, which has required a significant response. Currently, we have about 40 per cent of that in hand—about $650 million—and what we need to see now is maintaining that pace through the lean season, which will end in September/October,” Gressly said. 
Aid organizations have warned that with the onset of the upcoming rainy season, it will be more difficult to reach people because of floods. The rains will increase the risk of epidemics, notably cholera, and there are also concerns about a possible infestation of desert locusts in Mali and Niger.