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Millions will face starvation as horrendous food crisis looms in the Sahel

23 February 2022
Reading time: 2 minutes

The number of people on the brink of starvation in the Sahel has increased nearly tenfold in the past three years and population displacement by almost 400% as the region stares down a horrendous food crisis.

So said the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley.

“An absolute crisis is unfolding before our eyes in the Sahel region. I’ve been talking to families who have been through more than you can possibly imagine. They have been chased from their homes by extremist groups, starved by drought and plunged into despair by COVID’s economic ripple effects. We’re running out of money, and these people are running out of hope.”

The region, which runs south of the Sahara Desert, was experiencing some of its driest conditions in many years, the WFP said.

In just three years, the number of people marching towards starvation had skyrocketed from 3.6 million to 10.5 million in five countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The crisis was expected to outpace previous years due to compounding factors, including insecurity, an increase in poverty due to COVID-19 and dramatic increases in the cost of staple food, the agency said.

While the needs were huge, resources to support the vulnerable were at rock bottom, forcing the WFP into the difficult position of having to take from those who were hungry to feed those who were suffering most. In Niger, for example, lack of funding meant the WFP was cutting food rations in half.

The WFP required US$470 million for the next six months to continue operations in the Sahel where, despite a challenging security context, it had worked with humanitarian partners to maintain lifesaving support reaching 9.3 million people in the five countries in 2021.

The agency said it had been implementing resilience-building programmes to help families thrive. In the past three years, the WFP and communities had turned 110,000 hectares of barren fields in the Sahel region of five countries into productive agricultural and pastoral land, changing the lives of more than 2.5 million people.

Communities that had benefited from the resilience building activities were faring relatively better against this unprecedented food crisis because they had been empowered to grow sufficient food to feed themselves, diversify their productions and income.

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