Massive international response averted a humanitarian catastrophe in the Sahel

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Women create semi-circular banks of sand – "half-moons"- which help to absorb water and improve the soil quality. The aim is to plant trees and grass inside the semi-circles to stop erosion. WFP/Rein Skullerud, Niger: Dosso, Koumari Village

The large-scale response to the Sahel crisis– providing US$1.2 billion in assistance to around 10 million people across eight countries – helped to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

That assessment of the response by the international community comes from leaders of humanitarian agencies, government representatives from countries affected and major donors who met in Rome to review the effectiveness of their assistance, a year after a massive humanitarian response was launched to the food and nutritional crisis affecting millions of people across the Sahel region of West Africa.

But it warns that millions of people in the region are still affected by drought, with close to 1.5 million children under the age of five at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

The World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, host of the high-level event, said "This year, some nine million people across the Sahel will still require food assistance from WFP, through emergency food assistance, rural development, nutrition and education activities". She said "Boosting food security and building resilience lies at the heart of … collective efforts to change the pattern of recurring drought and continue on the path towards a better future".

The meeting agreed that while crop prospects are currently encouraging, there is a high risk of future shocks, due to increased rates of poverty and undernourishment, extreme weather, environmental degradation, low investment in agriculture, high prices and vulnerability to market volatility. In addition, the conflict in Mali has triggered widespread displacement in the region, uprooting half a million people and placing pressure on communities still recovering from drought.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration:  1’32″

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