UN launches a strategy to better respond to the risk of a new food and nutritional crisis in the Sahel in 2012

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 Dec 2011

(Dakar, Sénégal – 15 December 2011) – Two years since the 2009/2010 severe Food and Nutrition crisis, several countries in the Sahel are again at high risk of developing serious food insecurity most likely by the first half of 2012.

With this background, humanitarian partners, members of the regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) have adopted a strategic document termed "preparation for a Food and Nutrition crisis in the Sahel and neighboring countries." Developed by the Regional Working Group on Food Security and Nutrition, this paper was launched this morning by the New York based Director of operations of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging.

“In the absence of a regional Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) in 2012, it is essential to ensure an early response by humanitarian partners to support and complement the measures taken by national governments,” said John Ging. This is the objective of this strategic document which aims at reinforcing preparedness to ensure a rapid, efficient and early response. In addition, John Ging explained, “this dynamic document will be continuously up-dated with a view to adapt it to the evolving situation.

Food insecurity and malnutrition chronically affect a significant part of the Sahel population. However, several events came in 2011 which exacerbate this vulnerability.

In 2011 many parts of the region received late and poorly distributed rains, resulting in average harvests and serious severe shortfall in some areas. Consequently, the Government of Niger as an example has estimated that the 2011 agro pastoral season will record a deficit of 519,600 tons of cereals and of over ten million tons of fodder for livestock. In Mauritania, authorities expect a decrease of more than 75% of the agriculture production and a strong fodder deficit.
In areas where harvests are weak, households will run out of food stocks faster than usual and will be forced to rely on markets for supplies, contributing to maintaining the already high prices at the same level.

Furthermore, the purchasing power of the most vulnerable populations is likely to deteriorate. In addition the lean season is estimated to begin earlier than usual, probably as early as January 2012 in Chad, two months in advance. As the situation gets worse by spring 2012, there will be an increase of infant acute malnutrition, already beyond emergency thresholds in four wilayas in southwestern Mauritania.

Several countries in the Sahel have already announced measures taken to curb the negative effects of the food insecurity and malnutrition on vulnerable populations; who have not had enough time to recover from the 2009/2010 crisis, despite the good harvest registered last year. Three Countries (Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Mali) have also requested for assistance from the humanitarian community. In late November, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), administered by OCHA, allocated $ 6 million to three organizations in Niger - the World Food Program, UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization - for emergency operations to fight food insecurity and malnutrition. A request for CERF allocations in Mauritania is under consideration. The strategic document developed by the regional Food Security and Nutrition Working group on behalf of the regional IASC may also be used as a basis for the launch of emergency humanitarian appeals in the coming weeks or months, should the evolving situation requires that.

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