Humanitarian aid in the Sahel

The Red Cross is helping people through poverty, hunger and climate change.

An urgent food crisis

The Sahel stretches from the West coast to the East coast of the African continent, just south of the Sahara Desert. 

Right now, communities across Africa, including the Sahel, face a severe food crisis.

Over 100 million people are struggling without the food they need.

Across The Sahel, communities are facing emergency. This includes:

  • 4,402,406 in Niger
  • 3,453,510 in Burkina Faso
  • 1,837,244 in Mali
  • 2,098,861 in Chad
  • 879,366 in Mauritania

People in these countries already faced some of the most extreme crises in the world. But drought, the Covid-19 pandemic and soaring food prices is making the situation worse. 

Please help support our work in the Sahel. Donate to the Africa Food Crisis Appeal.

Balkissa sits with her twin children on her knees as they face hunger in the Sahel.

Communities in The Sahel are facing extreme hunger.


More than 100 million people in parts of Africa are now facing extreme hunger. Please support our vital work.

Arrow icon How the British Red Cross is helping

Arrow icon Supporting vulnerable migrants

Arrow icon Give cash, give dignity

Arrow icon Early action prevents disaster

In January 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that extreme hunger across the Sahel and West Africa is likely to worsen by May. By this point, millions more people will have become malnourished, including children.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is supporting those affected through long-term programming and targeted support.

A young boy walks across dry land in the Sahel.

Climate change is making conditions in the Sahel worse, creating large areas of arid land where no crops can grow.

How is the British Red Cross helping?

The British Red Cross is working at regional, national and local levels for greatest impact. On a regional level, we run the Sahel Livelihoods programme in Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania. The programme aims to build resilience across communities and prepares them for future crises such as drought and extreme weather events.

Locally, we help people facing hunger by setting up Mothers’ Clubs. These are groups of 20-25 women who inform other members of the community on maternal and child health, hygiene, good nutrition practices, among other issues. Mothers’ Clubs also receive seed funding to start their own income-generating activities and eventually gain financial independence.

The British Red Cross is also supporting the setup of local, affordable surveillance systems across the region. These systems mean that local communities are able to inform relevant partners about worsening food crises, who can then take action.

Nigeria Red Cross staff and volunteers work with communities in Nigeria.

Nigerian Red Cross staff and volunteers work with communities.

Supporting vulnerable migrants in the Sahel

Each year, thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in search for a better life, looking for work and safety in neighbouring African countries.

Along their journey, they are confronted with numerous dangers including exploitation and limited access to basic services. In most cases, the stress and trauma will impact mental health.

The British Red Cross is committed to helping vulnerable migrants in the Sahel. For several years, we have been leading a large humanitarian response that provides health services, psychosocial support, information and protection to vulnerable migrants on their journeys.

Give cash - give dignity

The British Red Cross is supporting people by providing cash grants -  an effective way of helping vulnerable people in many different crises.

Cash grants very important benefits. No family is the same, and by giving people cash instead of goods, they have the choice to spend the money on what best meets their needs. It protects their dignity and their right to make decisions about their own lives.

While food, schools and hospitals are available in the Sahel, poorer families had not previously had the means to access these resources. By providing cash grants, The British Red Cross ensures that vulnerable families are able to access these vital services.

Secondly, cash spending helps to keep local markets going, creating jobs and income in the communities.

The British Red Cross works with local Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, sharing skills, basic tools and agreements so they can act instantly when a disaster hits. In 2021, we have supported the RC/RC Societies of Chad and Mauritania to organise cash distributions to 1000 vulnerable families.

Aboutaye Magongi, 40, and her family pose outside their home in the village of Keiche, southern Niger.

Aboutaye Magongi and her children in Keiche, southern Niger. Aboutaye has a mobility condition and relies on extended family to stave off hunger. 

Preventing disasters through early action

We know that the Sahel countries often experience drought and irregular rainfall. Preparing for the next disaster is key.

The British Red Cross is trialling a new and innovative approach called Forecast-based Financing. The trial involves working together with the Niger Red Cross to identify the signs of drought and irregular rainfall ahead of time. We then draw up a plan of action for when these signs start to appear.  .

These early actions, to prevent the negative effects of drought, include distributing drought-resistant seeds for farmers and providing cash grants to families who lack food due to a bad harvest.

That way, we are sure to be able to act before drought leads to hunger.