Across the Sahel region, an estimated 10 million people are at risk of famine. Niger and Chad, two of the poorest countries in the world, have declared states of emergency. If this narrative sounds familiar, it’s because it unfortunately is. UNICEF estimates that 300,000 children under five die in the Sahel each year directly or indirectly from malnutrition, and the organization expects to treat 859,000 under-fives in the region this season for severe malnutrition. The last large scale famine in Niger in 2005 prompted authorities – both national and international – to declare: “never again.” In spite of stepped-up prevention efforts and quicker reaction times this time around, the international community and the governments of the Sahel region are once again unable to fully address the current food crisis.
Analysts have also noted that the ongoing refugee crisis in eastern Chad has also contributed to the growing food crisis in other parts of the country, as humanitarian organizations and international agencies focus their attention (and funding) on other priorities. According to Reuters, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) announced on Wednesday that an extra $14 million would be allocated for Niger. The European Union has also announced an additional $29 million for the Sahel. In an attempt to circumvent some of the logistical constraints of distributing food in remote locations in Niger, some organizations are also distributing cash and/or seeds in some communities.
The international community and governments of the Sahel region have been promising to address chronic malnutrition and to stymie the cycle of famines. Not only are these issues severely hampering these countries’ ability to achieve social, economic and political goals, but neglecting these crises highlights the urgent need to bring concrete actions on global food security in line with the promises made on that front.