accessibility & help

Acute food shortages hit countries in Africa’s Sahel region

19 March 2015

The British Red Cross has pledged more than half a million pounds to help people caught up in a growing and underreported crisis in Africa.

Countries across the Sahel, an area stretching from Eritrea on the Red Sea to Senegal on the Atlantic coast, are experiencing acute food shortages brought on by the late onset of rains.

Estimates suggest that more than 24 million people are affected.

The situation is further compounded by separate conflicts in Nigeria, Central African Republic and Mali.  

Background to the crisis

The Sahel is no stranger to crisis. The region has long experienced droughts and chronic food shortages. For many, the current situation is not out of the norm.

However, there are pockets across Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Chad and Nigeria, where the food shortages are now acute.

Failure to act now could further exacerbate the situation, according to Alex Carle, British Red Cross head of West and Central Africa.

“Humanitarian organisations have been carrying out an in-depth analysis of the situation, assessing the early-warning systems and weather patterns,” said Alex.

“We also have excellent knowledge of local markets and food prices. All signs point to an increasing number of people living in the Sahel finding it harder and harder to feed their families.

“It is important to act now before things become even worse and people, predominantly the vulnerable such as children, start to die of malnutrition.

“There is enough food globally – we must act now to ensure it goes to those most in need.”

Made homeless by conflict

The humanitarian crisis is complicated by multiple conflicts in the region.

Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. This has placed huge pressures on neighbouring countries and aid agencies.

Cameroon is hosting about 66,000 refugees from northern Nigeria, along with approximately 245,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR). 

Chad has also seen a large influx of refugees from Nigeria and CAR, while approximately 100,000 people have fled to Niger from northern Nigeria.

More than one million people have been forced from their homes within Nigeria.

The volatile situation in northern Mali has also left people in desperate need of aid. Around 80,000 Malians have been forced to flee their homes. A further 133,000 Malian refugees remain in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

“Families have had to flee their homes due to conflict and are being hosted in communities that already have insufficient resources to feed and house the local populations,” said Alex.

“This is happening within Nigeria, but also across the borders in Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The lack of resources only escalates an already difficult situation into one which is very complex.

“Communities are left highly vulnerable to further crises such as cholera and malaria outbreaks.”

Red Cross pledge

The British Red Cross has pledged £595,000 from our Disaster Fund. The money will be split between emergency relief work in Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Food, clean water, sanitation, health care and shelter are being provided to families.

Preventing further crises, such as disease outbreaks, is a crucial part of the Red Cross response.

The pledge will also fund training and assessment work aimed at addressing the food shortages across the Sahel.

  • Our Disaster Fund enables us to respond immediately to an emergency. We rely on donations from people like you to give help where it’s needed most. Please support our work by making a donation today.

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