United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos Statement at Member States Briefing on Western Sahel

Thank you for coming to this briefing on the Sahel. I am joined on the podium by my colleague UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

Last July, we faced a food crisis that affected 10 million people, and when I visited Niger in October I saw how the national and international relief effort had helped avert a much worse situation.

Until countries in the Sahel can address the underlying structural problems they face, the cycle of drought which leads to hunger and insecurity will be repeated.

Across the region, from Senegal, to Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, the desert is advancing, and shifting weather patterns are causing droughts one moment and floods the next. The region is on the front line of climate change, and desperately needs help to adapt. Sahelian countries are also confronting some of the world’s fastest rates of population growth, while struggling with weak governance, high youth unemployment, rapid urbanisation, and organised crime.

Food crises in the Sahel used to take place every 10 to 12 years. The last two crises, in 2005 and 2010, were just five years apart. I fear their frequency is accelerating.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.