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West Africa food insecurity

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Countries in the northwest region of Africa faced severe food insecurity in 2010 as a result of poor rainfall and crop failures. Most affected were Niger, Chad and Mali, but the effects were also felt in the northern parts of Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

Almost 6 million Nigeriens – nearly half the entire population – faced shortages of food and feed for livestock. Hardest hit were the nomadic pastoralists in northern Niger. The pastoralists are livestock herders. A CARE survey found that some had sold off their smaller animals months before they normally would in order to try and preserve their herds. In other areas pastoralists sold off their larger animals as well – at only 3 per cent of their normal value.

As always, women bear the brunt of the emergency. In Niger, it is the women who implement household coping strategies during food crises. Women, for example, are responsible for rationing meals or for harvesting leaves and wild fruits to supplement the family’s diet. When all this isn’t enough, it is the small animals – the women’s savings – which are sold to buy food.

Duration: Summer 2010 to present

Human Impact: 6 million people face food shortages and resources to care for livestock; women especially are affected as they implement household coping strategies during times of crisis.

CARE Response: cash-for-work programs to help starving families meet food requirements and purchase seeds; provision of emergency food distribution; nutritional aid for malnourished children – have reached 147,000 mothers, fathers and children in Niger.