Burkina Faso + 4 more

Commission contributes extra €25 M to fight malnutrition in the Sahel and calls for proactive plans to prevent food crises

Brussels, 8 June 2007 - The European Commission has adopted a global humanitarian aid plan worth €15 million for vulnerable people affected by longer-lasting crises in the Sahel region. This is in addition to €10 million already made available this year under the food aid budget to respond to short-term nutritional needs in the Sahel. This aid will reduce acute malnutrition and mortality among those who are most vulnerable - in particular the estimated 1.3 million acutely malnourished children under the age of five, as well as five million pregnant and breast-feeding women. Child mortality in the Sahel is one of the highest in the world and malnutrition is associated with nearly 60% of all child deaths. The aid covers five countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Responding to the immediate consequences and humanitarian needs, this humanitarian aid plan complements longer-term development aid provided by the Commission to tackle the root causes of malnutrition. All relief funds are channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO).

Olli Rehn, acting Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: "We need to be more proactive in tackling the root causes of acute malnutrition and consequent child mortality. Too often, international aid arrives too late, when the food crisis is already there. Lessons have been learned from the 2005 Niger food crisis."

The Commission has put in place an integrated and articulated aid strategy to assist the countries of the Sahel to make malnutrition history. This strategy draws on food security and rural development programmes, as well as on nutritional surveillance and contingency plans. The Commission appeals to the rest of the international community to embark on a more comprehensive and preventive approach to food and malnutrition.

The Sahel is the poorest and one of the most underdeveloped regions in the world. A series of external shocks - drought, locusts, epidemics, floods, spill-over of unrest from neighbouring countries - has aggravated the already precarious nutritional status of the most vulnerable populations. Coping mechanisms have been badly damaged and the increasing frequency of external shocks - natural disasters have increased by 94% in the Sahel region over the last 30 years (1) - prevents communities from recovering before the next disaster strikes.

Like ECHO's drought preparedness plan for the Horn of Africa (see IP/06/775), the new global humanitarian aid plan for the Sahel region emphasises a pro-active approach that looks at risk analysis and matches vulnerabilities and possible stress indicators. This will help prepare local communities to manage future external shocks better. It includes, for example, the treatment of moderately malnourished children: something that has a significant impact on reducing acute malnutrition and mortality rates. The survival chances of children who get help before severe malnourishment occurs are much higher.

In 2005 and 2006, the Commission provided €48.8 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. All five countries are priority locations for food aid funded by the European Commission (see IP/07/242).

In 2007, in addition to the funding announced today, the Commission has already adopted a separate €15 million global humanitarian aid plan for Chad (see IP/07/327), focusing on assistance for refugees (mainly from Darfur), displaced people and vulnerable resident communities.

The Commission-funded projects are implemented by non-governmental relief organisations, specialised UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement. Field supervision and coordination will be done through ECHO's regional support office for West Africa based in Dakar, Senegal.

The European Commission gives particular attention to improving the linkage between relief and development assistance to boost the long-term sustainability of humanitarian aid and to mainstream humanitarian concerns into development aid planning. ECHO therefore coordinates closely with the Commission services responsible for development policies and programmes, notably in the context of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). All the relevant 10th EDF country strategy papers now include measures to respond to nutritional insecurity in the Sahel.

Full text of the Global Plan:


(1) Source: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), 2006.