Urgent Call for Timely Action in Drought-Hit Sahel

An urgent call went out for quick action to prevent a full-blown crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa today as leading figures in the fight against hunger met  for an emergency meeting at WFP’s Rome headquarters.

ROME -- Rapid, coordinated action is needed in the Sahel region of West Africa where more than 8 million people need food assistance, said a joint statement released Wednesday after UN agency heads gathered governments from donor nations and affected countries at WFP’s Rome headquarters.

Heads of UN agencies, representatives of affected governments, and major donors stressed that now is the time for action in the Sahel – the region stretching from Senegal in the west to Chad in east-central Africa. See map | Download fact sheet

What is WFP doing?
young boy sitting on dried ground

WFP and partners are launching a regional response to reach more than 8 million people with food assistance. WFP is purchasing food stocks and deploying specialized teams to the region in advance of the peak hunger season to ensure that food is available to the most vulnerable – especially women and children. The total cost of the Sahel response is estimated at US$ 808 million.

“We’re having an emergency meeting in order to avoid a full-blown emergency,” said WFP executive Director Josette Sheeran.
“This is a time when it’s not yet too late. We know what needs to be done and we have the lessons learned from the Horn of Africa. We can’t prevent drought, but we can prevent famine,” she added.

Many areas of the Sahel are currently grappling with severe drought, with the result that millions of the region’s inhabitants are facing hunger for the third time in recent years. Read more

The quick recurrence of droughts means that people have had little time to recover. Savings are exhausted and livestock herds have not been replenished.

Leaders at the Rome meeting called for a combination of emergency relief and longer term actions aimed at addressing root causes and building resilience in communities living in areas affected by chronic drought.

“We need to act now and we need to act together to meet immediate needs in a way which helps build longterm resilience,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.

President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, one of the most affected countries in the Sahel region, welcomed the Rome meeting, saying in a message:  “It demonstrates that the humanitarian community is always there to help the Sahel region, in its search for a solution.”

The action plan agreed at the meeting includes the following steps (read the statement):
•    Support short-term responses to hunger and nutrition developed by Sahel nations
•    Target emergency assistance at mothers and young children at risk of malnutrition
•    Deploy cash and voucher programmes to help strengthen local markets
•    Support efforts by governments in the Sahel to address structural causes of hunger
•    Integrate disaster risk reduction and conflict prevention into regional responses
•    Respond to population displacement provoked by conflict in Mali (with effects in neighbouring countries)
•    Mobilise funds needed for the humanitarian and development response.


wfp staff member at a conference tableMeeting Participants

Attending the meeting were the leadership of these organisations: the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Development Programme (UNDP),the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, joined by senior representatives from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),  the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),  United States Agency for International Development (USAID) , representatives of the African Union (AU), Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), the International Council Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), and a broad representation of donor governments, as well as WFP board members.