Failed Harvests Threaten West Africa with Food Crisis

Failed Harvest

In February 2012, the UN has stated that famine in the Horn of Africa has come to an end and that the situation in region which was hit by one of the severest food crises in the last 50 years is slowly improving. Millions of people are still suffering from consequences of malnutrition and famine that broke out in summer of 2011 and the most severely affected regions still depend on the international aid. But at the same time when the UN announced that the worst appears to be over in the Horn of Africa, several charity organizations have warned that failed harvests in West Africa are posing a serious threat of food crisis in the following months.

According to charity organizations such as Save the Children and Oxfam who have already launched a campaign to help the most affected regions, about 11 million of people are at risk of famine if the international community will not react quickly. Farmers in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad were not able to produce enough food due to extremely low rainfall, while failed harvests resulted in dramatic rise of food prices which forced the poor in parts of the Sahel region to eat grains intended for animal feed and drink dirty water. The representatives of the UN agencies, governments of the affected countries and donors who meet in Rome in the mid-February 2012 to discuss management of the threatening food crisis resolved that the situation can grow out of control if action is not taken immediately because millions of people desperately need food, while the next harvests are still months away.

The delegates of the international community and governments of the affected countries in the Sahel region resolved to work together in order to prevent the food crisis from turning into a serious humanitarian crisis by supporting the most vulnerable populations but they have also acknowledged that an international fund raising campaign is necessary to finance the necessary support programmes. The situation in the Sahel region is exacerbated by military conflicts in Mali because Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger which are struggling to provide support to their own populations will not be able to support a larger number of refugees who are fleeing from the fighting between the insurgents and government forces in the neighbouring Mali.

In addition to launching relief programmes in order to help the most affected regions and prevent a threatening humanitarian catastrophe, the delegates in Rome also called for development of long-term plans which will prevent food crisis during the next severe drought. The region is struggling with recurrent droughts, while the last severe drought which affected 10 million people occurred only in 2010. It was not as severe as the 2005-2006 Niger Food Crisis but it clearly revealed that the region is highly vulnerable without a long-term plan to deal with the recurrent droughts and a strategy to provide food security to the most vulnerable populations.