Sahel: a humanitarian disaster can still be averted

Article, 03.04.2012

Food crisis in West Africa

In the Sahel region of West Africa more than 10 million people are facing serious food shortages due to the 2011 drought and the after-effects of the 2010 food crisis. Drawing from the experiences made in the Horn of Africa, Switzerland and other donors have reacted quickly in order to avert famine.

Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Northern Cameroon and Northern Nigeria: in all of these countries and regions millions of people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Irregular rainfall in 2011 exacerbated the precarious situation created by the food crisis in 2010, the effects of which are still felt today. The region has already experienced three droughts in less than 10 years. The current drought affects more regions of Sahel than the two previous ones and poses a threat to cattle and to food production.

Moreover the violent clashes in the north of Mali and the recent coup have forced more than 210,000 people to leave their homes. Many of them have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

Lessons learned in the Horn of Africa

Thanks to efficient early warning systems – and drawing from lessons learned in the delayed international response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa – Switzerland and other donors have reacted quickly. A humanitarian disaster can still be prevented.

Using its network of Swiss Cooperation Offices and its humanitarian experts in the region, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is able to make effective use of the CHF 14.3 million Switzerland has released for the crisis thus far. In addition, the humanitarian response in coupled with disaster risk reduction and resilience building measures for affected populations and governments. The aim: to prevent and mitigate future crises.

School feeding and nutrition programmes

More than CHF 4 million has been given to the World Food Programme for its school feeding programmes in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and another CHF 4 million for emergency operations. Swiss non-governmental organisations are being supported with CHF 1.5 million for the distribution of Swiss milk products to boost nutrition. These are just a few of the contributions made by the SDC.