Sahel Food Crisis: An Interview with Aboubacar Guindo of WFP in Mali

A field of withered crops in the Mali’s Kayes region. Drought has ruined food supplies in the Sahel region of Africa, which includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, and Chad. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

Almost nine million people urgently need food assistance in the Sahel region of Africa following a severe drought. And time is running out to prevent a massive humanitarian disaster.

Josette Sheeran, the director of UN World Food Programme, says, “The needs of the millions affected by drought in the Sahel are enormous, and the time to act is now.”

Mali is one of the countries caught in the crisis. Mali is not only contending with drought but also conflict in the North between a rebel group and the government. The fighting is creating additional displacement and hunger.

WFP runs school feeding in Mali to save children from hunger and malnutrition and keep them in class. But will there be enough support to keep the program going during this food crisis? WFP depends on voluntary donations to fight hunger around the globe.

Aboubacar S. Guindo, a WFP school feeding officer, talks about where Mali’s program stands now as we head into critical months of this hunger emergency.

How many children are receiving WFP school meals in Mali? Is this a breakfast or lunch ration?

Actually, we are feeding 156,666 kids in 729 schools in the country. They do receive hot meals generally served at midday. In addition to that, the Government undertook under the national budget to cover an additional 651 schools (117.000 children) who are also benefiting from hot meals.

Are these schools in the areas affected by the drought conditions?

Yes, most of the schools are based in the area affected by the drought that results in communities’ increasing vulnerability. The government through the Early Warning System identified 159 communities that are the most affected by this crisis. To respond to this, WFP elaborated an Emergency Operation (EMOP) with a School Feeding component to avoid important drop-outs that schools used to face in this type of crisis. The EMOP will also include nutrition, food for work, and cash components.

In the affected communes all the assisted schools from both government and WFP programs will receive a complimentary meal made of enriched cereals (supercereal) as breakfast. We are planning to assist 150,000 kids under this initiative.

Does WFP intend to expand the program?

For now, the extension WFP will do concerns the coverage of the schools affected by the drought. We are more likely to reinforce government abilities to develop and implement a National SF programme.

Does WFP have enough resources to continue providing the school meals?

Funding is the biggest challenge. We have been obliged last year to reduce the numbers of meals in the northern region due to reductions in funding. In addition to food insecurity, WFP is assessing the needs of the internally displaced due to conflict in the north. This assessment may show in an increase in needs.

We hope to have more contributions from local and international donors in order to continue to provide our support to communities as well as the government so that hunger does no longer constitutes a barrier to the education of any children in Mali.

For more information please visit the World Food Programme.

Article first published as Sahel Food Crisis: An Interview with Aboubacar Guindo of WFP in Mali on Blogcritics.

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