Media Contact:Lauren Fisher
NIAMEY, Niger, 17 November 2011—As Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving next week with food and family, World Vision warns this season's failed harvest throughout the Sahel region of Africa could bring a devastating food crisis to West Africa within the next two to six months. Early warning systems like the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET) point to inconsistent rain, insect attacks, and the resulting poor harvest, and some predict a food crisis that could eclipse the current drought in the Horn of Africa and hurt families already vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition after a severe drought swept through the region in 2009.
Last month, the Government of Niger conducted a country-wide assessment and determined that up to 6 million people—almost 50 percent of the population—could be affected. Most people there said they have between three weeks' and three months' supply of food left. A World Vision assessment throughout Niger found that, in its programs alone, more than 290,000 people are—or will be—affected by the crisis.
"The Sahel region of Africa is in an area of the world where we can predict—with near perfect accuracy—when drought and hunger will sweep through the communities here," said Paul Sitnam, emergency coordinator with World Vision in West Africa. "The problem is not a matter of resources, it's a matter of political will to do what needs to be done to protect the children and families living here."
In Mauritania, early estimates predict the need for emergency food assistance in 2012 will be significantly higher than the average need over each of the last five years. The government is already calling for outside assistance. Multiple agencies, including the United Nations, are also sounding the alarm, calling on the global community to step up and prevent a full-scale disaster.
World Vision is particularly concerned for children, pregnant women and the elderly—members of the community who remain acutely vulnerable during a crisis like this. On a visit to a local clinic in Niger, World Vision staffer Seth Le Leu, said "for me, the first signs of the oncoming disaster were the tiny children being brought to the clinic, already malnourished and with no prospect of much food for their families in the long months until the next harvest. The clinics are teeming with mothers desperate to save their frail children.”
Mothers like Yadou Adbou in Niger. She walked more than 15 kilometers to a World Vision clinic seeking help for her newborn twin daughters. Food shortages left her unable to produce breast milk for the infants, and they became ill when she gave them cow and sheep's milk in a desperate attempt to feed them.
The consequences of a crisis like this will be dire and could result in poor harvests; an extended period of hunger and malnutrition; a lack of seeds for a new harvest next year; mass migration from rural to urban areas; loss of livestock; and increased food commodity prices in the local markets. But World Vision is already taking action. The organization is working in multiple countries throughout the region before the crisis escalates.In Niger we are:
World Vision is also closely monitoring the situation in Mali, Chad, and Senegal to respond as needed.
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About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Visit www.worldvision.org/press.