In February, the United Nations called on the international community to help prevent an impending hunger crisis in the Sahel region of Africa. In a departure from the usual one-year plans implemented in the past, the U.N. devised a three-year plan to address and ideally break the constant food crisis in the Sahel. Now in July, the UN is pleading with the international community to uphold its aid commitment to the region under this plan as funding falls drastically short of the intended target.
The Sahel region is composed of a belt of countries just South of the Sahara desert including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. The region is frequently cited as one of the poorest and most vulnerable regions in the world; food insecurity seems to be a norm rather than the exception. In 2011 and 2012 the region experienced one of the most dangerous food crises yet, although severe repercussions were avoided due to a rallying effort by the international community to provide emergency aid to those most at-risk.
The U.N. is now expecting a potentially similar hunger crisis due to the population’s inability to deal with climate shocks as well as recent conflict and instability within the region and in neighboring countries. The three-year Sahel Humanitarian Response Plan drafted in February requires $2.2 billion to assist 20.2 million food insecure people in the region. For more pressing purposes, the U.N. asked for an immediate donation of $116 million of the $2.2 billion in order to begin assisting the 7.5 million in most desperate need.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, only $16 million of the requested $116 million has been donated to date. Due to this $100 million gap in funding the U.N. has had to tap into its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in order to address the hunger crisis. The U.N. Humanitarian Chief allocated $30.5 million of $75 million intended to boost emergency relief operations in Africa to seven countries of the Sahel region; countries on the Horn of Africa will receive the other $44.5 million. However, that still leaves emergency operations in the Sahel $69.5 million short.
In wake of the U.N.’s three-year response plan, USAID announced, as part of the international effort, the Resilience in the Sahel-Enhanced (RISE) initiative, which aims to build resilience to the unforgiving climate patterns in the region as part of a long-term effort to improve food security. According to USAID,$130 million was committed to the initiative for the first two years, which amounts to $65 million a year, only $3.5 million less than the $69.5 million still required for current emergency operations of the U.N. Sahel Humanitarian Response Plan.
– Erin Sullivan