Burkina Faso + 3 more

Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger: Food Insecurity Operation Update No. 3

Situation Report
Originally published


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In Brief

Appeal No. 05EA015; Operations Update no. 3; Period covered: 23 October to 2 December 2005; Appeal coverage: 80.9%; Click here to go directly to the attached Contributions List, also available on the website.

Appeal history:

Outstanding needs: CHF 3,487,646 (USD 2,658,267 or EUR 2,253,729).

Related Emergency or Annual Appeals: N/A

Operational Summary: November 2005 was a month of consolidation for the relief teams in Niger, where an emphasis was placed on the development and implementation of post monitoring and assessment activities. These indicate that pockets of food insecurity remain and that careful monitoring of the situation will be necessary into 2006.

The cash distribution project was successfully carried out in the Tanout area of Niger, reaching 5,713 households (over 34,000 beneficiaries) and a monitoring programme is currently underway to assess its impact. Preliminary results indicate that families are investing in their long-term viability (through the purchase of livestock and much-needed implements). A number of communities have also been pooling resources for the construction of wells and purchase of communal village carts to facilitate transportation.

Supplementary feeding programmes in Niger are still treating a higher than expected number of moderately malnourished children. However, most programmes are only admitting a small number of new cases and the number of recoveries continues to increase at a reassuring rate. At the end of November 2005, the Federation along with the French Red Cross, the Spanish Red Cross and the Qatari Red Crescent had assisted 47,566 children under five and their families (approximately 285,396 beneficiaries(2)).

In Mali, food distribution in the Timbuktu region to a targeted 2,872 families, or approximately 14,360 beneficiaries is being complemented with a vaccination programme for children, as well as livestock vaccinations. Fodder distribution is planned for December, in aid of these largely pastoralist communities. The programme is being coordinated by Spanish Red Cross with the participation of Mali Red Cross volunteers and support from four Federation staff members - most of whom are part of the Regional Disaster Response Team. The Federation team is also providing logistical and communications support to additional food distributions undertaken by Mali Red Cross in association with both WFP and Swiss Red Cross respectively, reaching over 13,000 malnourished children to date.

In Burkina Faso, food distribution has now reached 13,258 households (or 149,859 beneficiaries) in six of the most affected provinces in the remote Sahel and northern areas of the country - over 55% of the targeted 23,993 households, with support from Luxembourg Red Cross and Federation delegates.

Distributions are expected to continue until the end of the year, following which the Burkinabe Red Cross Society plans to undertake consolidation activities in areas where food insecurity is expected to continue, due to the depletion of household resources and cattle stocks.

Based on a proposal developed by an RDRT Health member temporarily based in Mauritania, the Federation has provided financial support to the cholera response in this country.

Overall, activities undertaken as part of the Appeal have reached more than 630,000 beneficiaries to datewell above the original target of 532,000 beneficiaries and despite an incomplete response to the Appeal.


The 2004-2005 harvest in the Sahel region was seriously affected by the worst locust invasion in twenty years, compounded by low rainfalls. Crops were greatly reduced, as was the availability of grazing land in pastoralist areas. This resulted in serious food insecurity in a region already suffering from chronic malnutrition and endemic poverty. The 'lean' period or 'soudure', which occurs between April and October - when the harvest from the previous year has been exhausted and the current year's production is not yet ready - is always difficult in the Sahel, and has proved particularly lengthy over this past season, leading in part to the 2005 food security crisis.

Despite estimations that this year's harvest is 'normal', there are indications that not all areas have benefited equally and that potential pockets of food insecurity may re-emerge during next year's 'soudure'. The problem may be compounded by the fact that many families have had to deplete their resources in order to survive the current year, leading to high levels of indebtedness and generally precarious households - with the most vulnerable families sinking ever deeper into a perennial vicious cycle: selling their crops at low prices to repay debts, and buying again in order to survive, when need is greatest and prices have risen to their highest levels.

The Red Cross Movement's response to the food crisis in Sahel has focused primarily on Niger, with on-going assistance in the form of human resources and funding being provided to food distribution operations in Mali and Burkina Faso. The Federation had anticipated reaching over 530,000 people overall through its various programmes within the Appeal. As of early December, relief distributions in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso had reached over 310,000 beneficiaries. In addition, the supplementary feeding programmes in Niger have exceeded anticipated need- providing assistance to some 41,586 moderately malnourished children and their families- an estimated 285,396 beneficiaries. Furthermore, a one-off cash distribution project was completed to over 34,000 beneficiaries in Niger's Tanout area. Overall, the Sahel operation has therefore provided assistance to over 630,000 beneficiaries to date.

Grave concerns for the longer-term impact of the 2004-2005 food crisis remain, given that the livelihoods of many- most especially in Niger- have been eroded by last year's crisis: people have had to liquidate their assets (in particular livestock) and have incurred significant debts. It is anticipated that this will impede their ability to reconstitute their households on an even economic footing and may well lead to an earlier than usual onset of the 'soudure'.

Results from a WFP-led Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) indicate that 13% of households in Niger live with severe food insecurity, with an additional 22% suffering from moderate food insecurity and 20% at risk on account of their livelihood. Findings also indicate that this year's millet harvest is not expected to last more than four months for 60% of households in rural areas. Overall, prices remain somewhat higher than the five-year average. Generally, government and UN agency sources indicate that the level of indebtedness of producers is quite high - resulting in mortgaging of part of the 2005-2006 harvest, which will impede a return to a more normal (albeit always precarious) economic security.

Looking ahead, the Federation is currently working on its longer-term strategy for Niger with a view to strengthening on-going national society capacity, building on existing health initiatives to establish more solid community-based health activities, and integrating water and sanitation support. Given that much of the malnutrition encountered is rooted in problems of a structural nature, the Federation is seeking on-going donor support for integrated, practical and viable community based activities- most particularly in the health and WatSan sectors - in order to have a real and longer-lasting impact, whilst closely monitoring the food security situation into 2006.


(1) For more about the national societies responding to this crisis, please click on links below:

Red Cross Society of Niger - http://www.ifrc.org/where/country/cn6.asp?countryid=127
Mauritanian Red Crescent - http://www.ifrc.org/where/country/cn6.asp?countryid=114
Mali Red Cross - http://www.ifrc.org/where/country/cn6.asp?countryid=112
Burkinabe Red Cross Society - http://www.ifrc.org/where/country/cn6.asp?countryid=181

(2) Unless exact beneficiary numbers are available, a multiplier of six has been used as the average number of family members per household.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Niger: Steven Loyst, Sahel Operations Manager, Email: ifrcsn44@ifrc.org; Phone +

In Mali: Sibiry Diarra, Executive Secretary, Mali Red Cross, Bamako; Email: crmalienne@afribone.net.ml; Phone +22. 224.45.69

In Burkina Faso: Victor Amah Sodogas, Relief Delegate; Email: vioto2001@yahoo.fr; Phone +

In Mauritania: Dr Aicha, Phone: +221.869.36.41

In Senegal: Alasan Senghore, Federation Head of Regional Delegation, Dakar; Email: alasan.senghore@ifrc.org; Phone +221.860.20.02

In Geneva: Madeleine Lundberg, Federation Regional Officer for West and Central Africa, Africa Dept.; Email: madeleine.lundberg@ifrc.org; Phone +41.22.730.43.35

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for a full description of the national society profile, please access the Federation's website at http://www.ifrc.org

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