Sahel Food Crisis: CARE's Resilience Response
The Sahel region in West Africa is among the poorest and least developed in the world. It is characterized by low-level seasonal rainfall and chronic food insecurity. In recent years, rainfall has decreased and became more erratic, resulting in poor agricultural productivity and high livestock mortality rates. Rates of global acute malnutrition amongst children are estimated at 14 percent. This chronic vulnerability, combined with the lasting impact of the recurrent droughts in recent years, has left the region prone to external shocks. The most vulnerable households in the Sahel region, approximately one fifth of the population, live permanently on the edge of crisis survival.
The year 2012 was not only defined by late and irregular rainfall. Birds, locusts and pests attacked the already sparse crops of farmers. This has resulted in a serious deficit of crop production, a lack of pasture and low water levels - all in a context of high and rising food prices. In addition, affected areas are also suffering from the loss of incomes from remittances previously sent by migrants, particularly those working in Libya and Ivory Coast who have fled those conflicts or lost their jobs.
While the regional agricultural production for 2012 is slightly higher than the five-year average, localized shortfalls continue to impact food availability, with harvest deficits in Chad, Niger and Mauritania. Simultaneously, in comparison to the five-year average, food prices are rising steeply, leaving families even more vulnerable. While in some countries such as Niger and Chad food prices increased about 30 - 40 per cent, in some areas of northern Mali prices skyrocketed by 90 per cent or more. More than half of the population of the Sahel buys their food at local markets – and often the expenditure for groceries accounts for 80 per cent of their household budget. The rising cost of food therefore has a serious impact on those most affected by the food crisis.
In parallel, the conflict in northern Mali is seriously exacerbating the crisis with mass displacements of people both within Mali and into neighboring countries which are already struggling to respond to the food crisis: Burkina Faso (38,800) Mauritania (54,100), Niger (50,000) and others. Overall 148,464 refugees have fled Mali and an estimated 228,920 people (IDP) remain displaced within their own country.