World Vision Media Relations
Brussels, Belgium (May 18, 2012) — As International NGOs currently working in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa, where over 18 million people are in the midst a severe food crisis and the lives of over one million children are at risk, we welcome the leadership of the United States in participating in this High Level Consultation at a critical juncture for the region. We welcome the positive financial and political leadership displayed by the United States throughout. The meeting could not be more timely or important given that communities in the Sahel are set to enter the peak of the food crisis, and discussions on resilience and breaking the cycle of hunger are gathering pace.
For the meeting to achieve real progress on these issues, we ask participants to focus on three priority issues: filling the funding gap for the emergency response; addressing urgent issues such as those related to Mali and the need to ensure good harvests; and creating an ambitious and strong platform for resilience. It is also important that the meeting define clear follow-up procedures that are coherent with and supportive of initiatives by the African Union and ECOWAS to bring together key actors in the Sahel.
1: FILLING THE CRITICAL FUNDING GAP
The food crisis that INGOs, UN agencies, governments in the region and a number of donors, including the European Commission, have warned about since the end of 2011 is here, and the situation is set to deteriorate significantly over the coming months. Food stocks have been exhausted for millions of people, and rapidly increasing food prices have made buying food from the market impossible for many. According to the most recent data, certain parts of the region - including Gao and potentially other parts of Northern Mali, Eastern Mauritania and parts of Chad - are now all classified as experiencing ‘extreme’ food insecurity (phase 4 in the Integrated Phase classification Scale), with large swathes in the preceding ‘critical’ phase. Communiqué from the PREGEC meeting, 9 June 20122, Niamey: CILSS, FAO, FEWSNET, WFP.
In this context, the UN has been working with national governments and INGOs to revise its emergency appeal, now estimating that over $1.54 billion is needed to protect the most vulnerable populations in the Sahel. To date, $657 million has been made available to the appeal, while an additional $222 million has been mobilized for projects outside of the appeal. This leaves an enormous financial gap that needs to be filled rapidly, and it is essential that donors seize the opportunity of this meeting to increase their own contributions and urgently address the current funding gap for the emergency response. Greater efforts should also be made to engage non-OECD donors, including those in the Gulf, to encourage stronger engagement in tackling the short term and long-term challenges in the Sahel.
2: ADDRESSING URGENT ISSUES
Protecting communities and securing the next harvest
There is an urgent need to address the health and survival of communities by tackling malaria and malnutrition in the immediate crisis, and paving the way for improved nutrition going forward. Farmers in many parts of the Sahel should also be preparing for the next harvests, yet a lack of seed inputs, tools and fertiliser, compounded by displacement in some areas, means that many farmers are unable to plant. Projects to boost agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers should be prioritized to avoid another poor harvest. Additionally, action must be taken to secure and manage food stocks at the local level and investments in winter crops must be made now to avoid another difficult lean season in 2013.
The lives of over 1 million children are now at risk from severe acute malnutrition, and 3 million children are suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. Children under five are at particular risk. Children face multiple vulnerabilities as a result of this crisis. Therefore the response must include support to all sectors, including chronically under-funded ones such as child protection and education. We call on donors to prioritise the needs of children by tackling malnutrition, both in the immediate crisis and as an investment for the long-term, including through cash transfers focused on mothers and children up to five; funding for key sectors which ensure protection for vulnerable children; and monitoring and reporting of violations in the context of conflict.
Scaling up assistance in Mali
We are particularly concerned by the grave situation in Mali and the humanitarian impact of a triple crisis – political, security and food - both on the Malian population and on communities in neighbouring countries. Conflict has greatly increased humanitarian needs among the population in the north of the country, as well as among the hundreds of thousands of displaced people and their host communities. Securing adequate access to assistance for populations in the north remains a top priority, as does providing adequate and appropriate assistance and protection for internally displaced people, refugees and host communities. The south of the country, where humanitarian access is unhindered, is also facing the peak of a serious food crisis.
As a result of these combined factors, 4.6 million people across Mali are currently food insecure. Yet in parallel to this surge in needs, many donors have frozen their bilateral or development aid allocations. We are concerned that these cuts could fundamentally undermine the ability of the Government and technical agencies to coordinate the immediate response. These cuts could also lead to a critical reduction in funding for agriculture & resilience-building projects. We call on donors to agree on common, ambitious and creative approaches to scale-up and sustain support to the Malian people in a context of political instability.
3: DEVELOPING AN AMBITIOUS & STRONG PLATFORM FOR RESILIENCE
We very much welcome the EU’s initiative to establish a Partnership for Resilience in the Sahel. Experience from initiatives in the Horn of Africa - the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Plan of Action for the Horn of Africa, the USAID led Supporting the Horn of Africa Resilience (SHARE) initiative and the multi-stakeholder Global Alliance for Action for Drought Resilience and Growth - suggest that such partnerships, if appropriately designed, can play a critical role in generating sustained momentum around resilience measures across key stakeholders to break the cycle of drought and food insecurity.
We are pleased that the proposal is strongly grounded at a regional level. For it to be successful, it is essential that the alliance build upon existing initiatives – such as ECOWAS’ regional agricultural policy (ECOWAP) and investment plan, as well as the Charter on Food Crisis Prevention & Management, signed by all ECOWAS states plus Chad and Mauritania. It should also support capacity building of these existing institutions and encourage them to take a leading role in the coordination and implementation of regional initiatives. These regional initiatives must also link with national, sub-national and community-level structures.
Building upon our experience in the Horn of Africa, we also strongly recommend that national and international civil society be firmly integrated into the further development and implementation of the Partnership – not only as a key partner in the delivery of projects to strengthen resilience in the region, but also as a powerful voice to hold national governments to account in the prioritization of these policies.
The Partnership must remain focused on the practical implementation of resilience building measures, building support and consensus across national governments, regional bodies, donors, UN agencies and civil society organizations. Alongside investments in small-holder farmers, the Partnership should integrate social protection and nutrition measures, especially targeting the most vulnerable populations, including the 4 million children in the region suffering from malnutrition. It should support ECOWAS to move forward on proposals to develop a system of community, national and regional-level food reserves that can build resilience to crises and manage food price volatility.
Finally, it is important that donors match the scale of the ambition needed with sustained and flexible financial commitments, including increased funding for disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs and better integration of humanitarian and development assistance, which require longer-term program cycles. Donor finance for agriculture should be better targeted to countries that need it most - currently just 17% of global donor funding for agriculture is allocated to the 25 countries most affected by hunger and food insecurity. The Partnership should aim to strengthen aid effectiveness by creating spaces for donor coordination, harmonization and division of duties, including between humanitarian and development actors.
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