Back in August we reported on the ongoing crisis in West and Central Africa. Here, our Programming Manger, Josh Simons, updates us on the current situation.test
How does the crisis look today?
At the end of August 2012 international aid organisations estimated that the total population impacted by the Sahel Food Crisis numbers about 18.7 million people. The state of emergency in a few critical countries has become ‘complex’ as aid operations have been prevented by civil conflict. Mali has been particularly affected with 445,876 people displaced by fighting, and a further 9,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and farms due to localised flooding. Conflicts in Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigera are also ongoing.
Across the Sahel the incidence of infectious diseases, particularly cholera, has dramatically increased. On September 6 the United Nations issued a warning that with the start of the rainy season, cholera is likely to quickly spread across the region.
So far 29,000 people are suspected of having contracted the disease, with 700 deaths recorded in the region. In addition to cholera, other diseases such as polio and meningitis have been reported. People suffering from lower immunity due to malnutrition and crowded living conditions, such as those displaced by hunger and conflict living in refugee camps, will be at particular risk of contracting these diseases.
Due to the drought and food shortages more than 4 million children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition, 1.1 million of which are at risk of severe acute malnutrition and require urgent lifesaving treatment.
What might the future hold?
As the ‘lean season’ (the traditional period of drought in the Sahel when people typically rely on food stored during the year to survive) draws to a close, initial food-crop harvest data indicates that this year’s harvest should provide above-average yields. This however only applies to farms which have received the necessary inputs, and with less than half of the 9.9 million people which were targeted for farm-aid to improve harvests receiving assistance, and flooding in some agricultural areas, food production in the region may still not be sufficient.
This year’s food harvest is also threatened by desert locusts which have been sighted in northern Mali and Niger according to UN reports.
While some locust control measures are possible, the concentration of locusts in regions affected by civil conflict has prevented large-scale counter-locust initiatives.
If you’d like to learn more, a fantastic map demonstrating the full-extent of the crisis can be found at http://sahelresponse.org/.
While this year’s food crisis has been ‘contained’ the risk of food insecurity in the region has not been mitigated and there still exists substantial potential for crisis next year. International efforts to respond pre-emptively to the crisis were largely unsuccessful with agencies raising only 49-53% of the needed funds.
How can I help?
WJR’s emergency appeal was launched at the start of March and is still open. If you’d like to donate, please click here.