Unusually low rainfall has devastated food crops across the Sahel, a vast African region south of the Sahara desert, affecting an estimated 15.5 million people in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. As conditions continue to deteriorate, more than 1 million children under the age of 5 are expected to experience severe malnutrition in the Sahel this year, according to UNICEF.
Due to inadequate rains in 2011, the region's grain harvests are 2.6 million tons below normal. The prices of staple foods have risen across the region, and some of the hardest hit communities have only 15 percent of the grains they need.
Political upheavals in North and West Africa are also contributing to the food crisis. Conflicts in Ivory Coast, Libya and northern Nigeria have affected migrant workers who provide financial support to their families in the Sahel. A new outbreak of violence between rebels and government forces in Mali has displaced more than 220,000 people since January.
Week of Compassion, through its partner Church World Service, is helping to provide food and other emergency assistance to more than 83,000 people in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal through Christian Aid, a partner through the ACT Alliance. This includes targeted distribution of nutrition packs, with locally purchased food items, to malnourished children and their mothers.
We are also teaming with CWS to help communities supply their own food through projects led by Christian Aid. These interventions provide farmers with seeds, tools and animal fodder, support community cash-for-work projects to control erosion, subsidize rice sales by local farmers and promote sustainable livestock management. Assessments are underway to identify the most vulnerable households in the targeted communities, such as those with malnourished children or people with disabilities, and to provide them with further food assistance or cash transfers.
Relief efforts may be expanded to include people fleeing violence in Mali who are displaced within the country or in neighboring Burkina Faso.
As always, we will continue to keep you informed about this situation as it progresses. If you would like to reach out in Courageous Compassion and support this and so many efforts both in North America and abroad, simply follow this link.
We give thanks to God for the work of our partners making a difference on the ground, and we give thanks for your generosity and support. We are all part of the Body of Christ, working with communities to be part of the solution to hunger and food insecurity.
Masbore village, Zondoma province, Burkina Faso. Food shortages could leave as many as two million people at risk in Burkina alone.
Photo: Christian Aid.
Call For Writers
Share your unique voice as a writer! We're looking for writers of liturgy, sermon ideas, activities for children and youth, and more for the special offering materials supporting the 2013 Week of Compassion. To learn about this Call for Writers, visit the link above, study the guidelines - then get writing! Deadline for entries is June 1, 2012.