A new food and nutrition crisis is affecting millions of people across the Sahel Region of Western Africa this year, due to a combination of drought, high grain prices, decrease in remittances, environmental degradation, displacement of population coupled with chronic poverty and vulnerability.
More than 16 million people are facing food insecurity and more than 1 million children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
Cereal production is 26 percent lower than last year, with some countries, such as Chad and the Gambia, experiencing a decrease in cereal production of about 50 percent and other countries suffering serious localized cereal deficits and severe fodder shortages. The pastoralist situation is deteriorating quickly.
The deterioration of the security situation exacerbates the situation. Mali insecurity worsens, risking to compromise the effectiveness of the humanitarian response.
Early warning (already launched by FAO in October 2011) was not followed by early response. It is not famine yet, but only rapid action would prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and avoid a full-scale crisis.
The timing of livelihood support interventions in agriculture and livestock sectors is essential. Funds are needed now to support vulnerable farmers and herders with the delivery of fodder, food crops and vegetable seeds in time for the main planting season, which begins in May/June 2012.
Alarming lack of funds: FAO is requesting almost USD79 million for immediate action in 2012 to support the resilience of more than 6.2 million people (39 percent of affected population). A funding gap of USD 62 million remains (79 percent).
In addition to emergency and rehabilitation activities geared to protect and restore resilience, medium and longer term interventions must address structural vulnerabilities and reverse the cycle of food shortages and crises in the Sahel.