Eighteen Million Face Hunger, Again: Recurring Food Shortages in Sahel Region of Africa

Emergency is a misleading name for the hunger crisis that currently endangers the lives of 18 million people living in the Sahel region of Africa. An emergency suggests a period of exceptional circumstances, but food shortages in this part of the world have become an annual event.

Recent unpredictable weather that caused water shortages and poor harvests triggered the crisis, but the region’s history of food shortages exacerbated the drought’s effects. The Sahel region, an area that includes Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, has frequently faced periods of food insecurity. Having suffered hunger crisis in 2005, 2008 and 2010, individuals in the Sahel simply do not have the necessary reserves.

The ongoing nature of the crisis has aid groups demanding a new kind of response. Traditional reactions to hunger crisis tend to be just that – reactions. In the Sahel, the challenges demand preventative measures.

“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,” World Vision’s European Union Representative Marius Wanders explained earlier this year.

The Canadian government has already embraced this forward-thinking strategy. In February, the government provided $41 million in funding directed at lessening the impact of the coming dry season. But as the drought continues and the crisis worsens, the need for aid remains.

For more information or learn how to help, please visit www.wfp.org/stories/sahel-crisis-by-country.

– Sarah Hobbs, 2012-2013 Soul Food Logistics Officer

Files courtesy of Oxfam International and CBC News Online