March 10, 2012

West Africa needs $69.8 in aid to avert ‘full-scale’ food crisis – UN

ROME (AFP) – The United Nations food agency FAO on Friday appealed for an extra $69.8 million (53.2 million euros) to aid 790,000 vulnerable households in the drought-hit Sahel region in West Africa.

The region needs “urgent support to prevent a full-blown food and nutrition security crisis and to protect and restore livelihoods of communities dependent on livestock and crops,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

FAO said at least 15 million people were at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel, including around 5.4 million in Niger, 3.6 million in Chad, 3.0 million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 850,000 in Senegal.

Apart from the drought, FAO said the crisis was due to sharp declines in cereal production and high grain prices, a shortage of fodder for livestock and a reduction in remittances from migrant workers in other countries.

“Total 2011 cereal production in the Sahel was on average 25 percent lower than in 2010, but as much as 50 percent lower in Chad and Mauritania,” it said.

It said the rise in internally displaced people in the region, including thousands fleeing conflict in northern Mali, had also aggravated the crisis.

“We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” FAO chief Jose Graziano da Silva said.

“Part of the solution is to improve the access of farmers and herders to local markets, encourage the use of local products, and apply risk-reduction good practices to reinforce their resilience”, he said.