Brussels, 18 January 2012 - The European Commission is doubling its humanitarian aid to the African Sahel region to 95 million EUR in response to the food crisis. The announcement was made by Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union's crisis response commissioner, during her ongoing visit to Niger and Chad.
The funding surge comes on top of the 10 million EUR that the Commission allocated to the looming drought crisis in the region last November. The total 105 million EUR in humanitarian funding will lift more than 2 million people out of the danger zone during the most critical period. This includes nearly 300,000 children under the age of two and pregnant and breastfeeding women. At least 35% of the assistance will be distributed in Niger.
"This crisis will bite from next month onward and we are now in a race against time", Commissioner Georgieva warned. She praised the government of Niger for their early recognition of the scale of this crisis and expressed hope that its consequences can be mitigated with early response, as it happened in 2010, when another drought-induced disaster was avoided in the region.
"This is another reason I am here today – to ensure that what we deliver is smart aid. We aim to target the people at the gravest risk using the fastest and most cost-effective actions and treatments", Commissioner Georgieva explained.
"I am determined to ensure that the European Commission will mobilise 250 million EUR to cover food assistance and longer term food security in the Sahel. We are already doing a lot, but this crisis needs an even greater response. I appeal to everyone, the international community and the governments in the region, to do all they can to assist", she added.
Commissioner Georgieva continues her four-day visit to Niger and Chad, two of the five Sahel countries (including Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania) most at risk of major food shortages over the coming months.
Approximately 22.9 million people in the region are beginning 2012 with huge uncertainty about how they will feed themselves and their families. A conservative estimate of the required response to the current scale of the crisis is 500 million EUR. This would help over 7 million people to bridge the 6-month crisis peak.
The Sahel suffers from a chronic malnutrition crisis but the prospect of a full-scale disaster this year has already been signalled with the governments of all five countries declaring emergencies and calling for international assistance. Early, effective and coordinated action by the Sahel governments supported by the international community can reduce the risk of a major disaster.
The Commission has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response to malnutrition in the Sahel since 2007 when it adopted a specific ECHO Sahel Plan to raise awareness of nutrition issues, demonstrate the effectiveness of nutrition action and advocate for a sharper focus on nutrition issues.
For more information
Commissioner Georgieva's website:
The European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection: