Farmers, Aid Groups Call Attention To Drought, Food Shortages In West Africa

A coalition of farmers from West Africa’s Sahel region, known as Billital Maroobe, wrote an open letter to regional leaders Monday, appealing for help with drought and famine conditions that are affecting people and livestock, Agence France-Presse/IC Publications reports.

“Communities of farmers and pastoralists are already severely affected … with the acute malnutrition rate estimated at 29.9 percent, which is double the emergency level of 15 percent,” the group wrote in the letter. “Farmers are sinking faster and irreversibly into absolute poverty,” according to Billital Maroobe, which “called on leaders to facilitate access to food for livestock, ensure the free movement of livestock and crops,” the news service writes. 

According to AFP, Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) leaders are scheduled to meet Thursday in N’Djamena, the capital city of Chad. CILSS includes: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. The article notes the situation in Niger, where officials have recorded more than 50 malnutrition-related deaths in children since January (3/22).

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), citing Famine Early Warning Systems Network data, said Monday that a “serious food security emergency” was developing in Niger, SAPA/News24 reports. IFRC said the number of malnourished children being admitted to feeding centres had increased by 60 percent in January, compared with the same month the year before. “The peak was expected to hit in June as supplies dwindled following a bad harvest,” according to the news service.

Mamane Issa, secretary general of the Niger Red Cross, said in a statement, “We are very concerned about the fact that more than half of rural households have no cereals left in stock” (3/22).

In related news, Reuters AlertNet writes that aid groups responding to the food security situation in the Sahel region “are likely to face a shortage of funds because donor attention is focused on Haiti, aid agencies say.” According to Modibo Traore, head of the U.N. Humanitarian Agency in Niger, “Donors have already indicated that the bulk of their resources were allocated to Haiti and that they may not have enough money for Niger.”

“Aid officials say the sudden and dramatic nature of Haiti disaster is likely to ensure continued media interest and funding, whereas the food crisis threatening Niger lacks the same level of attention because of its more gradual and recurrent nature,” the news service writes. “About half of Niger’s 14 million inhabitants face the risk of moderate to severe food shortages, 2 million are at risk in Chad and substantial numbers of people could face the same situation in Mali, Burkina Faso and parts of northern Nigeria, according to Oxfam.”

“The crisis in Haiti is really serious and requires support but it must also be noted that if this looming crisis in the Sahel is not well managed it may get to the extent of Haiti,” Eric Hazard, Oxfam International’s regional agriculture campaigns manager, said. 

The article also reports on current efforts by the U.N. World Food Programme and the IFRC to provide aid for people in Chad and Niger, which are expected to face the most serious consequences of the food crisis in the region (Fominyen, 3/22).

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