West Africa food crisis looms

Poor harvests in Niger and Mauritania could lead to a serious food crisis.

Edited by Shawna Templeton. Photo by Ann Birch Graham.
Published November 21, 2011 at 12:00am PST

Failed harvest throughout the Sahel region of Africa could bring a devastating food crisis to the western part of the continent within the next two to six months.

Crisis could eclipse Horn of Africa drought

Early warning systems like the Famine Early Warning Systems Network point to inconsistent rain, insect attacks, and the resulting poor harvest.

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 this region in 2009.  

Last month, the government of Niger conducted a countrywide assessment and determined that up to 6 million people — almost 50 percent of the population — could be affected.  

Most people reportedly have a food supply of between three weeks and three months. A World Vision assessment throughout Niger found that, in our 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.”

Children, pregnant women, and elderly most at risk

Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially vulnerable.

“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,” said World Vision’s Seth Le Leu. “The clinics are teeming with mothers desperate to save their frail children.”

Yadou Adbou is one such mother in Niger, who walked more than nine miles 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 milk in a desperate attempt to feed them.

Preventing a full-scale disaster

Multiple agencies, including the United Nations, are sounding the alarm, calling on the global community to step up and prevent a full-scale disaster. World Vision is working in several countries throughout the region. 

In Niger, we are:

  • Prioritizing life-saving nutrition programs for children 
  • Handing out seeds to farmers and helping to sustain farming near water points 
  • Beginning cash-for-work and food-for-work programs with the World Food Program for nearly 65,000 people


In Mauritania, we are:

  • Continuing life-saving nutrition programs for children 
  • Working with the government to support farmers, protect livestock, and improve food security
  • Assessing the needs of our communities throughout our program areas to scale up the response as needed


World Vision is also closely monitoring the situation in Mali, Chad, and Senegal to respond as needed.  

Three ways you can help

Please pray for families in West Africa who impacted by this looming food crisis. Pray that they would find the sustenance they need. Pray that organizations like World Vision would be able to work together to help avert a major crisis.

Make a one-time gift to World Vision’s West Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will help deliver emergency food aid, agricultural support, and more to children and families at risk from this impending disaster.

Contact your members of Congress today. Urge them to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger around the world.