Last year, over 18 million people in the Sahel region of West Africa were affected by a severe food crisis caused by drought, a failure of several crops, and sharp rises in food prices.
With the current conflict in Mali, more than 350,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, both in Mali and its neighbors in Sahel, adding more pressure on already vulnerable communities.
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, acting earlier than ever before, managed to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.
Oxfam played a major part in this effort. We provided urgently needed assistance to over 1 million people throughout the year. Over 600,000 of our supporters worldwide joined us in campaigning to raise the alarm and to mobilize the international community into action.
What is Oxfam currently doing to help people still affected by the 2011/12 food crisis?
Across the region, our response has reached more than a million people with essential support so far.
Oxfam is continuing its work supporting communities who continue to struggle with high food prices, as well as to help them rebuild and recover their livelihoods. We specialize in programs improving food security, strengthening livelihoods and increasing access to safe water and sanitation.
We continue to support communities in Mali (Gao and Kayes), Burkina Faso (North and Center-North), Mauritania (Brakna and Gorgol), Senegal (Kolda and Kedougou), Gambia (Kombo South), Niger (Tahoua, Maradi, Zinder, Tillabery, Dosso, Agadez, Maradi and Niamey) and Chad (Bar el Gazal and Guera).
Our ongoing activities include food distribution, cash/voucher transfers, income generating activities and market gardening, as well WASH activities to maintain latrines, well and pump rehabilitation, water quality monitoring and hygiene promotion.
Oxfam is also responding to flood affected communities in Niger (Zinder, Maradi, Tahou and Niamey). So far over 16,000 people have been supported.
Our longer-term programs will aim to build on the support provided to communities during the food crisis to strengthen the resilience of affected communities to future shocks. This includes, for example, social protection programs to support the incomes of vulnerable communities, programs to improve agricultural productivity, nutrition, and livelihood opportunities, and support to the development of local early warning systems to help communities adapt and respond to changing circumstances.
The situation in the Sahel
A range of factors contributed to the latest food crisis: Low rainfall and water levels, poor harvests and lack of pasture, high food prices and a drop in remittances from migrants all caused serious problems.
At the end of 2012, good rainfall and better harvests have provided some relief. Cereal production is 13 percent 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, to rebuild their assets and livelihoods, and to be able to support their families.
As well as dealing with the immediate challenges of helping people recover, we need to work together to tackle the underlying causes of food crises in the Sahel. Even when the harvests are good, 230,000 children die of malnutrition-related causes each year. Oxfam is dedicated to supporting small-scale farmers so they can produce more food, supporting the incomes of the poorest people through cash-for-work programs, and building systems of food reserves. These are just some of ways we can help to build the resilience of communities to future shocks, and avoid crises in the future.
Infographic: 18 million at risk in the Sahel food crisis
Working to break the cycle of hunger
Over 600,000 of our supporters worldwide joined us in campaigning to raise the alarm and to mobilize the international community into action.
We continue to push world leaders to keep solving hunger at the top of the global agenda.
Please join our GROW Campaign: together we can ensure that, in a world where there's enough food to go around, no one has to go to bed hungry.
We are still raising funds for our emergency work in West and Central Africa. These Oxfam affiliates are running direct appeals:
- Oxfam America
- Oxfam Australia
- Oxfam Belgium in Dutch or in French
- Oxfam Canada
- Oxfam Germany
- Oxfam GB
- Oxfam Italy
- Oxfam Hong Kong
- Oxfam New Zealand
- Oxfam Novib (Netherlands)
- Oxfam Intermón (Spain)
Alternatively, you can make a donation to the general emergency fund of your nearest national Oxfam affiliate. Your money will be used to fund our emergency work worldwide, which includes responding in countries such as Niger, Mali and Chad.
Photos: Baaba Maal visits drought-stricken Mauritania (February 2012)
Report: Escaping the Hunger Cycle: Pathways to resilience in the Sahel (November 2011)
Issue Briefing: Food Crisis in the Sahel: Five steps to break the hunger cycle in 2012 (April 2012)
Pinterest: Check out our #Sahel2012 board