The United Nations will be joining with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Union to undertake a humanitarian response to a potential food crisis in Mali and in the Sahel in West Africa. Some 9 million people in the Sahel region are in urgent need of food assistance. The three organizations have pledged another $33 million in humanitarian funding for people in the region, which has been stricken by “erratic rainfall and failed harvests, high food prices and rising conflict,” as USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg wrote on the USAID blog.
The Sahel is a semi-arid region on the Sahara Desert’s southern edge and includes Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) predicts that Mali and other countries could reach a stage of food insecurity by April. While Mali’s and Mauritania’s governments have been aware of the potential food crisis, the insecurity in the region is so great that many will be unable to buy food as prices may be up by as much as 50 percent as they have been in recent years. Some parts of the Sahel face a malnutrition level of up to 15 percent or even higher.
Even with the UN’s aid, numerous challenges are ahead for Mali and its residents. This week, clashes in the northern part of the country between the army and Tuareg rebels forced more than 126,400 people to flee from their homes. The UN refugee agency says that $35.6 million is needed to provide shelter, food, water and sanitation, healthcare and education for the masses of refugees. Tuareg rebels are demanding autonomy in the north part of Mali and are waging their biggest offense since 2009. Fighting hunger is only part of the assistance urgently needed to help residents of Mali.
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