West Africa Food Crisis
Throughout 2012 over 18 million people were affected by a severe food crisis caused by drought, a failure of several crops and sharp rises in food prices. The lives of over 1 million children were at risk from severe malnutrition. Communities across the Sahel suffered, and malnutrition rates remain dangerously high, but a major humanitarian operation managed to avert a large number of families, acting earlier than ever before to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions people.
International aid agency Oxfam played a major part in this effort, providing urgently needed assistance to over 1 million people throughout the year, while over 600,000 of our supporters worldwide joined us in campaigning to raise the alarm and help mobilise the international community into action.
In Canada, the federal government agreed to match public donations raised by non-government agencies between August 7 and September 30, 2012 to provide relief from hunger in the Sahel region of West Africa. The government made an advance payment of $10 million to the eight-week matching program.
At the end of 2012, good rainfall and better harvests have provided some relief. Cereal production is 13% higher than last year, but this does not mean the crisis is over. Food prices remain high and many farmers were unable to take advantage of the better rains to plant their crops. Malnutrition rates for children remain above emergency levels in many parts of the region. Millions of people still require sustained support to recover from the crisis, rebuild their assets and livelihoods, and be able to support their families.
As well as dealing with the immediate challenges of helping people recover, it is clear that much needs to be done to tackle the underlying causes of food crises in the Sahel, not least the fact that over 230,000 children die of malnutrition-related causes even when the harvests are 'good'. Oxfam is dedicated to support small-scale farmers produce more food, support the incomes of the poorest people through social protection programmes, and build systems of food reserves. These are just some of the things that can be done to build the resilience of communities to future shocks, and avoid crises of the future.
What Oxfam is doing
In Burkina Faso, we we will assist over 290,000 people including some 77,000 refugees from the conflict in Mali and their host communities. Since December 2011, we are working in over 120 villages to identify the most vulnerable people and provide cash-for-work programs and activities to increase access to water, sanitation and health education. We also provide food for cattle and other animals that pastoralist communities rely on for their livelihoods.
In Chad, we plan to reach 260,000 people. The lean period has started for the most vulnerable families; we have scaled up our programs in three of the most affected regions (Guéra, Sila and Bahr El Gazal), targeting agro-pastoral and pastoralist communities. The programs combine a long-term approach with emergency response and include targeted food distribution, cash transfers and cash-for-work programs, agricultural support, animal health support (vaccination, distribution of food for animals, veterinary training), construction and rehabilitation of wells and public health promotion.
Since January 2012, over 260,000 people have been displaced because of the conflict in Mali. Over 160,000 of these people have sought refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania. In recent months, Oxfam in Mali has provided 78,800 people in Bourem and Amderaboukane in the Gao region in the North with food, water and sanitation needs, and gender sensitization. Oxfam has assisted over 150,000 Malian refugees and host communities in neighboring Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger with food, water and sanitation provisions, health and hygiene promotion, hygiene kits, and the construction of classrooms. In southern Mali, where the majority of people affected by the food crisis live, Oxfam works in the Kayes region, providing direct cash transfers as well as activities which ensure access to food and water. Mali Assessment Bulletin, February 2013
In southern and western Mauritania, we have been working since January 2012 to assist some of the poorest families in pastoralist communities mainly around the Gorgol and Brakhna regions. We expect to reach 70,000 people this year. Our work includes food for cattle, cash transfers and the rehabilitation of wells. We are also scaling up our water and sanitation programs to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases. We are combining our emergency intervention with our long-term development programs, such as pumping water from a river for co-op vegetable gardens which benefit 1,300 women. A programme to provide water and sanitation to refugees and host population has being launched in the east of the country.
In Niger, Oxfam and our partners will be reaching some 450,000 people with projects that include cash distribution and cash-for-work to families most in need in Agadez, Dosso, Tillabery, Maradi, and Tahoua areas. So far, we have reached 120,000 people. Partners are also rehabilitating water points and restoring cereal banks. We also support the provision of food for livestock for pastoralists as well as the provision of water and education services for refugees from Mali and their host communities.
In Senegal, we plan to reach 85,000 across the regions of Kolda, Kedougou assisting the neediest farmers through cash transfers for food and seed, as well as a hygiene promotion (water treatment, hygiene kits and education). The plan also includes rehabilitation of community wells to keep drinking water clean and safe, food or cash-for-work, so that farmers can meet their food needs while they work their fields.
In The Gambia, we will complement ongoing government response efforts by providing 10,000 affected people with cash transfers for food and seeds, along with hygiene promotion. The response will be implemented through our partner Concern Universal.
See The Faces of Hunger from Don Cayo.
Huge shortage of funds to help West Africa (Sahel joint press release on funding)
Recognizing the huge scale of need in West Africa and the need to work collectively to bring urgent assistance to disaster survivors, Oxfam Canada is proud to participate in the HUMANITARIAN COALITION.
By joining our efforts the members of the HUMANITARIAN COALITION are able to save more lives and reduce the costs of fundraising.
Find out more.