FOOD CRISIS AT THE CENTER OF WEST AFRICAN MISSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS HUMANITARIAN CHIEF
Mr. Holmes began today the first leg of his mission in Senegal, where during the next two days he is discussing with the government of Senegal and regional representatives of humanitarian organizations the main challenges affecting the region and the means to strengthen cooperation among the various actors who provide humanitarian interventions in West Africa. He will also review the main areas of cooperation in disaster management, risk reduction and strengthening of humanitarian coordination.
Today, Mr. Holmes met with Mamadou Lamine Ba, the newly appointed Minister for International and Humanitarian Affairs for Senegal. During the meeting he noted that Senegal is one of the few West African countries to have established such a position, and appreciated the commitment of the Government to humanitarian issues. Considering that Dakar hosts over 50 international humanitarian organizations, M. Holmes noted that Senegal was in a unique position to promote a better developed regional humanitarian agenda.
M. Holmes will travel to Niger from 25 to 28 April to assess the human impact of the serious food crisis affecting some 7.8 million people there and to press for an urgent response by donors to the appeal launched recently for an extra US$ 133 million to respond to the urgent needs in the country, beyond the almost $70 million already requested in the 2010 Consolidated Appeal. The Niger leg will include a visit to the department of Zinder, one of the most affected areas in the country, where he will meet communities affected by the food crisis and visit nutritional centers.
While Niger will be the center of attention, Mr. Holmes will also draw attention to the effects of this crisis on some 2 million people in Chad, 258,000 in Mali, 370,000 in
Mauritania, on communities living in northern Nigeria near the border with Niger, and potentially elsewhere too. Poor rainfall in 2009, desertification, population growth and chronic problems linked to access to water and pastures are among the causes of the food crisis.
In addition to drawing attention to the need for resources to provide life-saving assistance, the Under-Secretary-General will discuss the need to tackle the root causes of the recurring crises, for example by investing more in smallholder agriculture and rural infrastructure, strengthening poverty reduction measures, and putting more emphasis on risk reduction in the face of new challenges such as climate change.
"The current five years after the lastfood crisis, emergency, shows that without joint action between development and humanitarian actors, in support of the responsible governments, to deal with the structural issues, it will become increasingly difficult to contain these recurrent crises which do so much to undermine economic and social progress in the Sahel," declared Mr. Holmes.
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