Burkina Faso + 4 more

Precarious situation in the Sahel, urgent action needed to face the lean season

Originally published


The humanitarian context continues to deteriorate further each year in the Sahel, with insecurity already underpinned by numerous deadly incidents toward populations - likely to spread to other areas of West Africa, seriously affecting the lives of communities. Violence and attacks are causing chronic insecurity in several regions and sharply increasing the need for humanitarian assistance. A total of 29 million Sahelians need assistance and protection, representing 7 million more than in March 2020 food and nutrition insecurity has reached an unprecedented peak, endangering the lives of the most vulnerable (especially affecting women, children under 5, the poor, the elderly).

Violence in the Sahel significantly affects food and nutrition security. The cumulative effects of conflict and violence concentrate in four major food insecurity hotspots, the most acute situation being reported in Central Sahel and in Lake Chad basin area. In the conflict-affected areas, the food and nutrition situation has drastically deteriorated according to the latest publications of the Cadre Harmonisé (CH) of March 2021. For the G5 Sahel countries - Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania Niger, Chad - more than 6,057,000 people are currently in a food crisis (phase 3).

These figures will increase further during the lean season (also called hunger gap, period preceding harvest from June to August) with more than 8,700,000 million, meaning over 1,600,000 than in 2020.

Populations in emergency situations (phase 4) requiring immediate action have increased in the G5 Sahel countries (from 2019 to 2021). In 2019, there were over 143,000 people and in 2021, they are estimated at over 811,000 individuals.

In the central Sahel zone, at the 3 borders (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso) the trends observed since 2017, based on the Cadre Harmonisé data, show an increase of the number of people in the crisis situation (from phase 3 or worst).

The situation in Mauritania also shows an increase of the number of people in the crisis situation during the lean season (281 156 in 2017 to 409 940 in 2021).

Due to the compounding effects of conflict, poor access to basic services, climate variabilities and chronic food deficit during the lean season, Sahel is prone to the most acute levels of food insecurity. As such, the region is considered a top priority of the United Nations High-level Task Force on Preventing Famine and the newly launched G7 famine prevention and humanitarian crises compact.