AFRICA: Sahel desert drought causes widespread displacement

Deborah Mazon – WNN Breaking

Displaced family who have crossed the desert region in the Sahel
A displaced family crosses the drought ridden Sahel desert region in Africa to reach Dadaab, Kenya. Over 440,000 people have fled to the refugee camps in Kenya due to shortages of food.The camp in Dadaab was built 20 years ago and is now overflowing with a capacity of 90,000 people. Image: INTERNEWS

(WNN) Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES: The United States is providing over $81 million in additional humanitarian assistance to support humanitarian needs as the lean season begins in the drought affected Sahel region of West Africa. With this additional contribution, the U.S. government is reaching more than three million vulnerable people. Overall, more than 18 million people in the Sahel are at risk of food insecurity this year, of which 8 million people currently face severe food insecurity requiring emergency food assistance in 2012, according to national government and U.N. data. This new assistance brings the total U.S. Government humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $308 million in Fiscal Year 2012.

“When I was in Rome earlier this year [to attend the World Food Program Executive Board meeting], I pledged, along with other donors, to match early warnings with early action in the Sahel,” said Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The U.S. government has lived up to that pledge with a strong, smart response that provides life-saving food aid to meet immediate needs and is working to help the people of the Sahel break out of this cycle of chronic crisis.”

This additional funding will provide more than $56 million to the UN World Food Program, of which approximately $36 million is for in-kind food aid and distribution and $20 million for the regional purchase and distribution of sorghum, a staple food in the local diet. “We need to reach people as quickly as possible so a portion of this food needs to be purchased regionally,” said Ms. Lindborg. “We also need to ensure that our current humanitarian response contributes to the region’s ability to prevail when the next drought strikes.” The latest U.S. contribution will also provide $25 million in assistance through nongovernmental organizations for programs that address acute household food insecurity while supporting key construction and rehabilitation activities that lead to longer-term, more sustainable food security.

Karen Johnson, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, noted in particular that “this sizable contribution to WFP for the Sahel demonstrates our continued partnership with WFP in fighting hunger worldwide and our confidence in WFP’s capacity as an organization.”

“As the Sahel enters the lean season, the needs continue to grow – and they could multiply rapidly,” said Lindborg. “We’re acting early in partnership with government-led initiatives and with the international community because the United States stands with the people of the Sahel as they face this crisis – and we can’t afford to stand by as circumstances become worse.”

U.S. Government humanitarian assistance includes food assistance, nutritional support, and agriculture, livestock, and livelihoods projects across the Sahel that meet immediate needs and work to build community resilience to future food security crises.


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