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Growing West Africa food crisis

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More than 18m people in Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad & Burkina Faso face struggle for food

The Disasters Emergency Committee is extremely concerned about the worsening food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa. There are more than 18 million people under threat in arid areas of Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. Erratic rainfall has contributed to a lack of grazing for animals and below average harvests in some areas. This in turn has resulted in unseasonably high market prices for grain, putting staple foods increasingly out of reach for many people.

Every year is a struggle for survival in the Sahel and many communities have not really recovered from the last food crisis in 2010. In some countries the situation is further complicated by conflict. In Mali there has been a coup and rebel groups have taken control of the north of the country. Over 420,000 people are reported to have been displaced within the country or two neighbouring states. The recent violence in northern Nigeria and Libya has also reduced the ability of people from neighbouring countries to seek work within the region. Many families have long been dependent on income from migrant workers to buy food when times are hard.

The food crisis is expected to continue to deteriorate until at least September 2012 when the next main harvest is due. Following the collective failure to launch a sufficiently strong pre-emptive response to the 2011 food crisis in East Africa (guest post from award-winning Oxfam blogger) there has been a high level of international concern about the situation this year in the Sahel. Some donors have already stepped up their contributions and the UN publishes details of what donors have given to all international emergency appeals. Many DEC agencies have been extremely active in raising the alarm and are using the funds available to them to begin to scale up their responses. All our member agencies now have active appeals, links here.

The Disasters Emergency Committee is closely monitoring the situation and is actively liaising with its member agencies and will continue to review the developing situation against its appeal criteria.