Crucial pledging conference to save millions of hungry children and families across Sahel

Donors attending Monday’s pledging conference in Brussels must address a massive funding shortfall – over $900 million - on work needed to tackle the food crisis in the Sahel.

Over 18 million people are facing hunger across West Africa – some even selling the clothes off their back to pay for food. But aid agencies are warning that, with the hunger season approaching in West Africa, many lives are at stake if donors do not step up on Monday.

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children said: Families need help urgently, their lives hanging dangerously in the balance as donors are moving far too slowly to respond. This crisis is fast becoming one of the hardest to fund in decades but this summit could be the turning point. We welcome the initiative and urge of world leaders to take quick, decisive action."

“The hunger season is starting now. Families cannot wait any longer for action; there are too many already being pushed over the brink. There is a massive funding gap in this response and the governments gathering today can make all the difference in helping meet these immediate needs and also, longer-term, in breaking the hunger cycle in the Sahel,” said Oxfam Regional Policy Manager Steve Cockburn.

Representatives from European states will be attending Monday’s summit, and ministers from several West African states affected by the crisis.

Aid agencies, including Save the Children, Oxfam, World Vision and Action Against Hunger (ACF) have been calling for a pledging conference for months desperate to plug funding shortfalls and to work up long-term solutions that build resilience to future droughts and food shortages. The UN has estimated that to fully meet the needs of the people, $1.5 billion is needed.

“We have seen drought and food crises come up time and time again in West Africa. The case is clear for longer-term investment that focuses on helping families build their resilience so that the next time a drought hits, even the most vulnerable communities will be in a better position and can keep from falling over the edge,” explained Patricia Hoorelbeke, ACF Regional Representative for West Africa.

As well as stepping up to plug the immediate funding shortfall, agencies are keen to ensure that future harvests are protected from harm, ensuring that the crisis does not continue into a second year.

“Our world is changing – sadly, drought in sub-Saharan Africa is no longer a rare occurrence. We need to break the cycle where drought turns into massive hunger and puts the lives of children at risk. We can do this now by investing in the longer-term and working with world leaders and the communities themselves, to build their resilience,” said World Vision’s EU Representative Marius Wanders.

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Food Crisis in the Sahel

18 million at risk in the Sahel food crisis [infographic]

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Notes to editors

Contact information

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

In Brussels, Angela Corbalan on + 32 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org

In Dakar, Charles Bambara on +221 33 859 3722 or cbambara@oxfam.org.uk