Preventing hunger in Sahel requires radical change, Oxfam says
This year, 10 million people were affected by the Sahel food crisis, with pastoral populations the most affected. On average, 18.3 per cent of the population in Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso are undernourished. This figure rises to 37 per cent for Chad.
"We have to be prepared to act now by learning from the consequences of previous humanitarian disasters and, above all, by adapting responses to specific needs and taking into account the expertise of local people, including pastoral people," said Dodo Boureima, of the Bilital Maroobe Network.
“As the deep roots of those crises are structural, it is before, during and after the crisis that we need to act to fight against hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel," added Etienne Du Vachat, the author of the briefing note and Humanitarian Coordinator for Oxfam in Niger.
The two organizations are challenging national policy makers to develop contingency plans and agricultural and food policies in anticipation of years of poor harvests. Sahel-region countries must also live up to commitments they made to devote 10 per cent of their national budgets to agricultural investment.
“Women have an important role to play in preventing crises in the Sahel, and cash transfers and food stamps to the poorest households would be good solutions to vulnerability and malnutrition," said Mamadou Biteye, Oxfam Humanitarian Regional Director in West Africa.
Quality information must be shared with populations at risk of hunger in a targeted, tailored and coordinated way, the two organizations said. Authorities must also recognize crises where they exist. This recognition must be based on the correct interpretation of information relayed by Early Warning Systems across the region.
In the Sahel, 80 per cent of households spend 80 per cent of their budget on food. Yet, according to the World Food Program, 38.6 per cent of households in Niger were in debt in April 2010. Building local and community capacity in terms of prevention, preparedness and response to crises should be a priority to help make Sahelian communities less dependent on foreign aid, which is often too late and inadequate.