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GIEWS Update-detail
Increasingly Serious Food Security Situation in Parts of the Sahel

6 May 2005
In spite of steps taken by the region’s governments, the food situation has been worsening in regions of the Sahel affected in 2004 by drought and desert locusts. In Burkina-Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, millet prices continue to climb, while livestock prices have been falling. This reduces access to main food staples by vulnerable households, notably pastoral and agro-pastoral groups, which were hit especially hard by last year’s combination of drought and desert locusts.

In Niger, where the 2004 cereal production was 12 percent lower than previous year’s, some 2.5 million people in 2 988 villages are officially estimated to be at risk of food shortage. The Government has been selling cereals at subsidised prices in affected communities, but the impact of the operation on the overall food situation is very limited. In early April, Médecins Sans Frontières warned that severe child malnutrition was increasing rapidly in the Maradi and Tahoua districts, with rising admissions at supplementary feeding Centres. UNICEF appealed for funds to feed some 750 000 children suffering from hunger, including 150 000 showing signs of severe malnutrition. WFP has also lunched an appeal but food aid pledges are reportedly still short of requirements. Additional food aid pledges and deliveries are urgently needed in view of the upcoming lean season. Many farming families will also need seeds and other inputs for the next growing season due to start in late May/June.

With scarce pasture and water, livestock condition is reported to be deteriorating in spite of increased movement of livestock herds, which led to confrontations in a number of locales. Further action is needed for adapted transhumance corridors,animal health programmes, and the provision of inexpensive fodder.

The same upward trend in cereal prices combined with falling livestock prices have been affecting farmers and pastoralists in Burkina-Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, especially in the northern parts. A nutritional survey carried out by Accion Contra el Hambre in parts of Mali’s Kidal region showed that among children under five years, nearly one-third was suffering from global malnutrition. Emergency measures taken by Governments include cereal distribution in affected communities in Burkina-Faso and subsidized sales of 15 000 tonnes of animal feed in Mali. In Chad, as recommanded by the Comité Directeur du Comité d'Action pour la Sécurité Alimentaire et la Gestion des Crises (CASAGC), the National Early Warning System, subsidized sales of cereals are expected to begin in May. In Mauritania, where widespread and increasing malnutrition is reported, WFP’s Food For Work program has started in Brakna, Gorgol, Assaba and Hodh El Gharbi departments, while the cereal banks component of the emergency program is to begin. A European Union-funded food distribution, to be implemented by the Commissariat à la Sécurité Alimentaire (CSA), is also expected to start soon.

In spite of this, additional measures are urgently needed, mainly in the livestock sector: subsidised animal feed, safe passage areas for livestock, animal health programs. The urgent supply of agricultural inputs, particularly seeds, will also enable affected farmers to plant food crops with the onset of the May rains.