Last updated February 2013
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been working in west Africa for many years, and since December 2011 has been responding to the emerging food crisis there. It is able to help even in areas of unrest, where many other organisations cannot work.
Short term response
It has been working to both combat short-term hunger, and to help improve people’s long-term resilience to food insecurity. As well as distributing water, food, animal feed, cash grants and food vouchers, the Red Cross has been screening people for malnutrition and providing follow-up support.
Long term impact
Red Cross projects to help people improve their livelihoods include:
- educating people about cooking, nutrition, breastfeeding and food hygiene
- setting up community gardens, and giving people the tools and skills to grow off-season crops
- giving fishermen nets and boats to help them resume fishing
- giving people agricultural seeds, fertilisers and farm tools
- providing goats to help replenish or build people’s assets
- rehabilitating wells and water pumps
- improving local food storage facilities
- making people aware of drought-resistant crops, conservation and farming techniques
- running cash-for-work schemes to improve infrastructure and prevent erosion.
Working in areas of unrest in Mali and Niger
While a food crisis is triggered by a number of factors, places with violence and unrest are among the most vulnerable. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working with the Mali Red Cross and the Niger Red Cross, is able to work in areas where many other organisations cannot.
The ICRC has been providing food and essential household items to people, including displaced people and refugees. The Red Cross has also been providing seed, tools and training to help people prepare for the planting season, and helping people boost their incomes, livestock health and productivity by supplying fodder banks.
Where needed, it has also been buying – and slaughtering – weak animals at competitive prices, leaving pastoralists with healthy herds and providing food for vulnerable households.
British Red Cross response
In February 2012, the British Red Cross deployed two delegates to help assess the situation in west Africa. On 16 March 2012 it launched its West Africa Food Crisis Appeal.
It contributed £200,000 towards the Movement’s emergency work in Burkina Faso and Senegal during the height of the 2012 food crisis. In Burkina Faso, British Red Cross funding – made up of appeal funds and money from the Disaster fund – provided around 14,000 food vouchers for more than 21,900 people in the Nord region in September 2012.
The British Red Cross also provided £125,000 to the Irish Red Cross to support a longer-term food security programme in Zinder, Niger. The programme helped people build and repair cereal banks – and establish community groups to manage them – and also increase their animal stocks.
The British Red Cross also gave £250,000 to the ICRC, to support their work in the conflict-affected areas of Mali and Niger. These funds provided essential household items – tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, clothing, hygiene kits, buckets and kitchen sets – to more than 11,600 people. A final contribution of £26,500 will be made from appeal funds in February 2013, to help people affected by both food security and the conflict.
The West Africa Food Crisis Appeal is now closed. Donate to our Disaster Fund to help us respond to future crises.
Read stories from west Africa