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Acute Food and Nutrition Crisis in the Sahel: A Call to Action, June 2018

News and Press Release
Originally published


The Sahel region faces an exceptional crisis with the worst humanitarian needs in years requiring an urgent scale-up of emergency response. Millions of people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal are struggling to meet their daily food needs and face extreme vulnerability and increasing hardships.

Poor rainfall in the 2017 season has sparked acute pasture and water shortages, raised food costs and caused livestock prices to plummet. Pastoralists have migrated months earlier than usual with millions of livestock in search of water and pasture.

Levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are markedly high. Almost six million people require food assistance, and up to 1.6 million children risk facing life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in the six countries. Around 2.5 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralists are at a serious risk of livelihood crisis.


This year’s especially acute lean season is approaching its peak – meaning food scarcity, increasing severe acute malnutrition and outbreaks of epidemics.

With rapidly deteriorating needs, affected communities, if they don’t receive assistance now, will struggle for survival for months to come. However, programmes providing emergency nutrition and food assistance and livelihood support remain underfunded.

The critical situation requires a swift and targeted response, and humanitarian actors call for immediate support from the international community. The window of opportunity to assist communities during the most difficult months, and provide life-saving aid to the most vulnerable is closing soon.


Analyses by Governments, NGOs and UN agencies since September 2017 point to an increasingly alarming situation, destabilizing the livelihoods of millions of people. Shortages of water and fodder have led to the earliest transhumance movements in 30 years, cross-border and with millions of animals. Herders are extremely vulnerable, and their families left behind with meager resources. Water points and pasture in host communities are thinly stretched and often insufficient.

Affected communities have already exhausted their food reserves, often months earlier than usual, and first harvests are only expected in September. Across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal,

5.8 million people need urgent food and livelihoods assistance to go through the lean season, the highest number in years. The most recent analyses indicate that the figure could reach up to 6.5 million people.

Malnutrition rates across the six countries are worryingly high. Up to 1.6 million children risk suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, an increase by more than 50 per cent compared to last year. In addition, 3.4 million could suffer from moderate acute malnutrition. Alarming global malnutrition levels exceed the emergency threshold in many zones across the region.

Acute water shortage and early drying up of water points have induced heightened pressure on resources in the region and reduced capacity of water and sanitation infrastructures, especially in most isolated areas.

Across all drought-affected countries, a total of 3.8 million people need urgent WASH assistance.
Thousands of families are forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms. They are cutting down on meals, withdrawing children from school, remaining without health treatment. In some areas, over 50 per cent of affected people have already resorted to emergency measures such as selling reproductive cattle, begging or migrating.

The crisis has severely affected the most vulnerable civilian population, particularly women and children, older persons and those with disabilities and serious medical conditions. Across Burkina Faso, Chad,

Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, 2.5 million are in need of protection and 4.8 million of urgent health assistance.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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