Even as the battle against hunger continues in the drought-hit Horn of Africa, as UNICEF notes, another food crisis has begun to unfold in eight countries across West and Central Africa. The countries affected include Niger, Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, northern Nigeria and northern Senegal.
According to the global humanitarian organization World Vision, “Due to low rainfall, harvest has been poor, varying from nothing harvested in some of the villages to poor harvest of sorghum, cowpeas, and peanuts, which could barely last for 2-3 months. This poor harvest was also exacerbated by the return of Libya immigrants, causing a reduction of the household income as remittances have stopped, but also increasing the amount of household daily food consumption; hence the rapid depletion of household food reserves. Also, while food stocks in some areas are still at an acceptable level on the market, price increases are progressively becoming a limiting factor for a poor household to access food.”
All of these factors have created a crisis where more than a million children in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa are at risk of becoming severely malnourished. “This children’s crisis is going to be immensely challenging. We do not issue such warnings lightly, but the scale demands an appropriate response that needs to start now,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director David Gressly.
As a way to address this crisis, UNICEF has been ordering therapeutic foods and distributing emergency stocks. Those looking for a way to help in West Africa can donate a UNICEF’s Child Survival Food Pack. This compact package contains the essential ingredients needed to help a hungry child such as therapeutic milk and ready-to-eat therapeutic food. Multiple micronutrient powder and high-energy biscuits provide essential vitamins and minerals while water purification tablets can provide clean and safe water. Each package can keep a child fed for a month.
In addition to addressing the emergency crisis, humanitarian nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) are also looking at solutions that can enable these countries to achieve self-sufficiency. Andrew Dimmock, Operations Director of the Doulos Community, an international NGO that has been working in Mauritania since 1987, offers this assessment: “Ultimately the only long-term solution to the problems of the developing world is programs which put an emphasis on empowering and equipping people and communities to become contributors and producers. Short-term help is of course needed in crisis situations like famines, but so often these divert resources away from longer term development, and create a dependence mentality.”