Lack of rain has parched land and crops across West Africa. Photo: Janet Whalley/Tearfund
28 March 2012
Tearfund is sending an extra £100,000 to its partners in drought-hit West Africa to boost their response to the region’s worsening food crisis.
The additional funding will help people suffering from hunger in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger - among the world’s poorest countries - as fears grow of a disaster on a similar scale to the one affecting East Africa.
Tearfund partner Jemed, based in the Abalak region of Niger, has reported that people there are already resorting to eating wild plants and leaves such is the severity of food shortages. (See video report here)
A combination of factors has exposed around 13 million people across the Sahel region of West Africa to the current emergency:
- Inadequate rains leading to poor harvests
- Rising food prices
- Repeated droughts over the last decade which have weakened people’s ability to cope
- Climate change
- Regional conflict in northern Mali
- Chronic ongoing poverty
- Population growth
Tearfund partners are responding in a variety of ways aimed at boosting people’s chances of survival, such as teaching them how to grow vegetables in market gardens which will diversify their diet and give them food to sell.
Cash-for-work programmes pay people for doing activities which benefit their communities, such as building irrigation, while selling food at a reduced price means people are able to purchase food which they would usually be unable to afford due to high food prices.
Sacks of food being readied for distributon. Photo: Tearfund
Gaston Slanwa, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Niger, said such activity is being stepped up in the coming months, adding: ‘The situation here is alarming and it is getting worse.’
Passiri Levourne, Country Representative for Chad, said the outlook was expected to become more difficult from mid April when people start to finish their existing food stocks.
‘It’s very difficult here,’ he said. ‘People have already started to eat wild fruits but that can be risky and affect their health.’
Tearfund partners in Chad are working with local churches to get food, such as maize, to areas where it’s most needed before conditions become critical. There will also be distributions of seeds for people to plant in time for the next rainy season, added Passiri.
Conflict in northern Mali has led to thousands of people fleeing into neighbouring Burkina Faso which is putting pressure on dwindling food stocks there, according to Mbairodbbee Njegollmi, Country Representative for Burkina Faso.
‘Since last month, the situation has worsened and the number of regions that are needy has increased,’ he said.
About 3 million of Mali’s population are going hungry, with efforts to respond being hampered by the conflict in the country’s north and the recent military coup.
Despite this, a Tearfund partner is distributing emergency food aid to locals and people displaced by fighting in and around Timbuktu. Read more here.