Millions of people across the Sahel will be left hungry in the coming months unless funding shortage is addressed

Published: 23rd April 2012

Millions of people across the Sahel will be left hungry in the coming months unless multi-million dollar funding shortage for crisis response is filled, aid agencies warn.

A huge gap in funding for aid projects aimed at preventing the deepening food crisis in the Sahel is threatening to leave millions of people hungry in the coming months, a coalition of aid agencies has warned today.

Action Against Hunger, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision are aiming to provide emergency assistance to nearly 6 million people across the region but say they have so far been able to secure funding for less than a third of this essential work. Nearly US$250 million is needed by all four agencies, but only $52 million has been raised so far.

Action Against Hunger plans to reach 1 million but so far has only managed to raise a third of what it needs. Equally Oxfam has only raised a third of what it needs to reach 1.2 million people. Save the Children which has plans to help 2.5 million people has only managed to raise 15 per cent of its budget and World Vision plans to help 1.1 million people are only 20 per cent funded.

Funding shortfall could affect millions

Collectively, this shortfall is equivalent to over 2 million people being deprived of life-saving assistance and, if it remains, is likely to result in significant cutbacks in the agencies’ aid programs.

The United Nations has also been hit by the funding crisis where less than half of the projected $724 million required to tackle the crisis has been raised. This funding gap is likely to grow further as the situation deteriorates and more money is required.

Malnutrition rates rising

The aid agencies are seeing increasing malnutrition levels across the Sahel and are calling for a donor pledging conference to rally wealthy governments and donors to generously fund the total aid effort for the food crisis.

Patricia Hoorelbeke, Action Against Hunger’s Regional Representative for West Africa, says: “In the Chadian Sahel, the global acute malnutrition rate already exceeds the emergency threshold of 15 per cent and admissions to our feeding centres have increased dramatically. More than 2,000 severely malnourished children were admitted for therapeutic nutritional care in Kanem last month alone. We have deployed additional emergency staff and scaled up our programs but further action is needed to prevent the situation from deteriorating.”

In Mauritania, Oxfam is aiming to reach at least 70,000 people with desperately needed food and clean water. However, with a funding gap of over $1.3 million for its work in Mauritania the agency will only be able to reach half of these people.

UN must act

Steve Cockburn, Oxfam’s Regional Policy Manager in West Africa said, “There is no doubt that families across West Africa are entering a dangerous period, and we have already seen women forced to search for grains in anthills in order to survive. We are ready to bring assistance to millions of people, but time is running out to get programs in place before the crisis hits its peak and funding is urgently needed. We urge the UN to organize a pledging conference as soon as possible to ensure that 15 million people who risk going hungry are not left without the assistance they so desperately need."

In Niger, Save the Children has only been able to deliver vital cash support to 1 in 10 of the families they plan to reach. “We are already seeing the number of malnourished children needing treatment rise, and unless we can scale up our programs, it will continue to do so,” said Jeremy Stoner, Save the Children’s West Africa Director. “If we act early we can save thousands of lives. We have known that a hunger crisis is brewing in the Sahel for months, but without funding, there is little we can do to stop it. Addressing malnutrition – including in its most acute form here in West and Central Africa - should be high on the agenda of G8 leaders when they meet in the US next month.”

Time is running out

Chris Palusky, Response Manager for World Vision, said: “We’re at a key moment in the fight to protect lives of children suffering crippling hunger and malnutrition. We’re already seeing people taking extreme measures to cope with the crisis. Some families are resorting to eating wild leaves, others are barely able to feed children one meal a day. We have to act now before the crisis reaches its peak when the most vulnerable will be among those dying from preventable hunger and malnutrition."

In Niger the lack of funding has prevented World Vision from reaching over 15,000 malnourished children with a life-saving nutrition project and 22,000 people in need of clean water. “This is a desperate situation," added Palusky. "We've seen how our relief and rehabilitation projects can help save lives and protect communities against future crises when funding is available." added Chris Palusky.

Read more

Donate to Oxfam's humanitarian response to the Sahel food crisis

Video: Oxfam's Fred Perraut reports from Chad

Issue Briefing: Food Crisis in the Sahel: Five steps to break the hunger cycle in 2012 (April 2012, pdf 210kb)

Report: Escaping the Hunger Cycle: Pathways to resilience in the Sahel (November 2011)

We urge the UN to organize a pledging conference as soon as possible to ensure that 15 million people who risk going hungry are not left without the assistance they so desperately need.
Steve Cockburn
Oxfam’s Regional Policy Manager in West Africa

Notes to editors

Agency Number of people planning to help Amount needed $US Amount received Shortfall
ACF 1 million $45.5m $15.4m $30.1m
Oxfam 1.2 million $53m $12m $41m
Save the Children 2.5 million $81.27m $12.27 $69m
World Vision 1.1 million $60m $12m $48m
Totals $239.77m $51.4 $188.1

  • In 2011 the U.K. Humanitarian Emergency Response Review found that nutrition is one of the most cost effective emergency interventions: feeding programs cost just over $158 per child saved, whereas a surgical team costs over $3,900 per life saved. $42 per family can prevent child under nutrition.
  • Malnutrition is responsible for at least 35 percent of all child deaths per year in the region. Children who suffer from moderate acute malnutrition are 2.5 times more likely to die than a well nourished child if they don’t receive treatment, and this increases to about 9 times if the malnutrition is severe.

Supporting film and photo

Download Save the Children photos from Niger:

Download Save the Children video from Niger:

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Download World Vision photos from Niger:

Download Oxfam photos from Chad:

Download Oxfam video from Mauritania:

Contact information

For further information, and to arrange interviews, please contact the aid agencies below:

Save the Children:
In London, Andrew Wander on +44 (0)207 012 6841 or out of hours on +44 7831 650 409.
In Dakar, Katie Seaborne on  +221 777 405 056

In UK, Ian Bray on +44 (0)1865 472289  or +44 (0)7721 461339.
In Dakar, Charles Bambara on +221 33 859 3722.

World Vision:
In London, Georgina Newman on +44 (0)7557 567753.
In Niger, Chris Webster on +44 (0)7827 988665

Action Against Hunger:
In London, Christine Kahmann on +44 (0)7738260500