Lack of cash threatens Chad relief effort

Millions risk hunger in Sahel

25 May 2010, Rome – Lack of funds is jeopardizing FAO emergency operations in Chad where two million people risk hunger after drought and pest infestations slashed food production, FAO said today.

According to FAO emergency operations expert Fatouma Seid FAO has only been able to mobilize $2.0 million of the $11.8 million it requested last November for agricultural emergency operations in the country as part of a UN inter-agency appeal. This compares with $14.5 million raised by FAO for neighbouring Niger, also hit by very serious food shortages.

“Donors are afraid of a repetition of the 2005 food crisis in Niger, when many people starved to death,” Seid explained. “In comparison, there’s less awareness of what’s happening in Chad, although the situation there is just as critical.

“It means FAO will only be distributing 360 of the 11,286 tons of seeds we had been planning to issue to farmers for their next harvest,” Seid said. “We’d aimed to distribute 6000 tons of animal feed too, but can only manage 413 tons.”
Special alert

FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture (GIEWS) said in a special alert last week that the food situation is of grave concern in parts of the Sahel where more than 10 million people are at risk of hunger.   

Chad’s cereal production was estimated to have declined by 34 percent  compared to 2008, with corresponding drops of  30 percent  in Niger, 24 percent in Mauritania and 17 percent in Burkina Faso.

Pastures too had been seriously affected, with forage production in Niger some 62 percent below requirements, the alert said. In Chad, a death rate of about 31 percent for cattle was reported last year in west and central areas while significant livestock deaths were occurring in some parts of Mali.

High insecurity

Falling cereal production together with the poor rangeland conditions and continuing high food prices “has led to high food insecurity and increased malnutrition in affected countries,” GIEWS said.

In Niger, an estimated 2.7 million people will need food assistance this year while an additional 5.1 million people in the country were considered at risk of food insecurity. Some two million people need food aid in Chad, while 258,000 face serious food insecurity in Mali. Some 370,000 people require assistance in Mauritania.

Emergency relief operations have begun in Niger including Government sales of subsidized cereals, comprehensive feeding by UNICEF and WFP and distribution of animal feed, seeds and fertilizers by FAO, which is also providing long-term support to farmers by boosting production of locally adapted seeds.   Input distribution and long-term assistance to farmers and pastoralists was also taking place in Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali.

Photo: ©AFP/Sia Kambou
Over 10 million risk hunger in the Sahel