Tag Archives: Sahel Food Crisis

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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Mauritania School Meals Run Out as Drought, High Prices Strike

Impact of Drought in Mauritania: The recent rain deficit in Mauritania has had a severe impact on the land. Many animals have died due to lack of fodder and water leaving families without livestock. (Jacqueline Seeley/WFP)

The hunger emergency in the Sahel region of Africa is fast escalating. Drought and high food prices are taking their toll among millions of already impoverished people across several nations.

Mauritania is one of the countries trapped in this crisis. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports, “Dry spells and poor rainfall distribution during the growing period (July to October) resulted in a sharp decline in cereal production. The 2011 cereal output was estimated…about 53 percent below last year and 39 percent below the previous five years average.”

The ranks of the hungry in Mauritania are rapidly increasing. FAO says there could be over one million people now “food insecure” out of a population of three million. These are families that are already living in poverty and not able to cope with dramatic price increases.

At a time of low crop production and high food prices, the safety net of school meals for children becomes ever so valuable. However, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is so low on funding that supplies are about to run out for the breakfast and lunch it has been providing to schoolchildren throughout Mauritania.

At a time when school feeding should be expanded, in Mauritania it is days away from coming to an end. WFP relies on voluntary donations from the international community.

Jacqueline Seeley, WFP information officer, provides us with more details in the following interview.

How many children are currently taking part in the WFP school feeding program in Mauritania?

145,633 children.

Are the schools in areas impacted by the drought and high food prices?

Yes, greatly. There is presently no funding in the pipeline for the school feeding and given the current crisis, the school feeding programme ensures that children at least receive two meals per day. This takes a large burden off of vulnerable families…as of the end of February families will be forced with the challenge of finding ways to feed their children.

Does WFP have enough resources to continue the meals program?

No. Food in the pipeline lasts until end of February, but after that, there will be nothing. No financing is foreseen given the urgency of the crisis as all donors prefer to finance the emergency response.

Are there more children who need these meals?

This caseload of 145,633 is the maximum caseload we planned for 2012; however the need of children who are hungry is higher, yes, especially with the food crisis.

How can someone get involved with helping WFP Mauritania?

Through wfp.org, money can be sent to WFP to support its operations. For direct contributions to Mauritania, contact jacqueline.seeley@wfp.org.

Article first published as Mauritania School Meals Run Out as Drought, High Prices Strike on Blogcritics.

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Sahel Food Crisis: School Meals Needed in Chad as Hunger Deepens

The African nation of Chad is in the middle of a hunger crisis as drought has struck, ruining the country’s food supply. Chad is part of the Sahel region of Africa which in recent months has seen poor crop production. Hunger and malnutrition are growing, and the international community needs to act fast to avert a massive humanitarian disaster. (see Sahel Food Crisis: Race Against Time To Save Lives.)

Many families have less food, and what food is available on the market has gone up in price significantly. Many of these families are already living on fewer than 2 dollars a day so any increase in food prices is extremely serious.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is providing school feeding in Chad as part of its response to the crisis. These meals not only save children from hunger but also keep them in school and learning.

When a hunger crisis hits a community, children often drop out of school to help earn wages for the family. This negative coping strategy denies children education and may even put them in danger.

Critical for Chad will be ensuring that school feeding is continued through the upcoming months when the food shortages will be at their worst. Malek Triki, WFP information officer, provides us an update on the school feeding response in Chad.

How many children are currently receiving school meals through WFP in Chad?

Currently, 205,000 schoolchildren (of which 45% are girls) are receiving schools meals in 790 primary schools across Chad. WFP plans to assist more than 250,000 school children in 2012 and around 265,000 in 2013.

Are the schools in communities impacted by high food prices and/or drought?

Yes, most of the schools assisted by WFP are located in areas affected by high food prices and the drought, especially in the Sahelian zone. The poor harvest means that the food availability is highly reduced, which translates into high food prices on local markets. Schoolchildren will depend more and more on school meals as their main source of food.

What are the latest reports of nutrition levels among school children?

Schoolchildren are in the age category of 7 to 14 years, which falls out of the age category targeted by nutrition surveys in Chad (under 5). However, the global acute malnutrition levels stand at 16% – beyond the emergency threshold rate of 15%.

Does WFP have enough resources to carry out school meals in the coming months?

If the current level of funding doesn’t improve, WFP will not be able to carry out school meals in the coming months. Out of about US$ 10 million required for the year 2012, only US$ 2 million have been secured. There is an urgent need to have funds to purchase over 5000 Mt of assorted commodities including MML, pulses, oil and salt.

For more information visit the World Food Programme.

Article first published as Sahel Food Crisis: School Meals Needed in Chad as Hunger Deepens on Blogcritics.

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Sahel Food Crisis: Race Against Time to Save Lives

A mother attends to her severely malnourished child at an inpatient feeding centre in Mao, Chad. Credit: UNICEF Chad/2011/ Esteve

In the Sahel region of Africa millions of people are caught in a severe hunger crisis. Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali are primarily the countries affected right now.

Drought has reduced food production, and high prices reign over the existing food supply. For families living in poverty, food is out of reach. UNICEF says more than a million children under five years of age will need to be treated for severe malnutrition in the region.

If the international community does not act now, the situation will get much worse. Action has to be taken well before the lean season between harvests, which could start as early as February or March. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says, “food security problems in the lean season lead to significant peaks in acute malnutrition and mortality, taking it beyond critical levels.”

It can take months for a donation to translate into food on the ground. So donors need to come forward quickly to help avert a disaster in the Sahel.

Navyn Salem of Edesia, whose organization produces plumpy’nut food aid, points out that if donors wait until the ultimate disaster strikes, it leads to very expensive airlifts of emergency food aid. That is money that could have been used to purchase more food and shipped at lower cost months earlier.

Right now WFP is facing a tough time funding its relief operations as hunger is on the rise in many parts of the globe. In Niger, WFP had to increase its funding requirements to feed over 3 million people, one million higher than previous estimates. So far, less than half of the required funding has been received to provide the food aid.

Denise Brown, WFP country director, warns “Unusually high food prices are affecting needy people who are facing growing difficulties as they struggle to feed themselves and their children. I am deeply worried about the food situation deteriorating in the coming months and we cannot sit back and wait for the worst to come.”

The US Food for Peace program, started by Dwight Eisenhower, has been able to send some funds for Niger relief. However, the US Congress has been threatening to reduce future funding for Food for Peace despite the massive global hunger crisis now unfolding.

In Chad, cereal production in 2011 decreased 50 percent compared to 2010, according to the Food and Agriculture organization. Who becomes the most vulnerable when such a food crisis hits? It’s the smallest children under five years of age.

A WFP report says, levels of acute malnutrition were at a “critical” level in 6 out of 11 regions surveyed in Chad. Other areas were categorized as having “Serious” levels of malnutrition. The smallest infants in this danger zone run the risk of lifetime physical and mental damage unless food aid can reach them in time.

UNICEF says, “What is going to be required to save lives is the sweet, peanut-based therapeutic food known as ‘Plumpy Nut’, enough nutrition professionals in the field to work the feeding centres, and a string of other interventions that bring more food into communities.”

The Sahel region is in need though of more than emergency food aid. There has to be a way to build up the resilience of the region to future droughts, and gradually reduce the need for outside assistance. When the current crisis stabilizes, investments in the small farmer will need to move forward. Only this food security investment can prevent another hunger crisis of this magnitude.

Article first published as Sahel Food Crisis: Race Against Time to Save Lives on Blogcritics.

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