West Africa food crisis threaten six million people

A mother in Chad picking some wheat for her family

Caritas Internationalis is appealing for urgent assistance to help millions of people affected by the food crisis in West Africa. Nearly 6 million people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal are struggling to meet their daily food needs. Severe malnutrition threatens the lives of 1.6 million children.

It is the worst crisis seen in the region since 2012. Caritas fears the situation will deteriorate even further in the critical months ahead.

The latest emergency has been caused by poor rainfall. This has resulted in water, crop and pasture shortages and livestock losses.

Severe acute malnutrition rates in the six countries have increased by 50 per cent since last year. One child in six under the age of five now needs urgent life-saving treatment to survive. Families are reducing meals, withdrawing children from school and missing out on critical health services to save money for food.

Violent attacks by militants from Boko Haram have added to the challenges as tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes in the Diffa region of south-east Niger. Diffa is one of the poorest regions in the world and women and children represent 85 percent of the refugees and internally displaced persons.

“The humanitarian situation in Niger is worsening day by day due to the security crisis in Diffa, Tillabery and Tahoua.”  “The number of people in need has increased to 2.3 million, an increase of 400,000 compared to 2017.”

An estimated 1.4 million people will require food assistance in Niger in 2018. More than 380,000 young children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and 922,000 others with moderate acute malnutrition.

In Burkina Faso the situation is also critical. Caritas says there is acute malnutrition in six provinces. Families are relying on their limited savings to survive and more than 80,000 are considered to be in a phase of food emergency. The situation is the worst seen in Burkina Faso since the 2012 humanitarian crisis.

Caritas is committed to assisting the most vulnerable with food assistance and livelihood protection with the aim of helping 2000 households. “If the project is not fully funded, it would be devastating especially for vulnerable households who cannot survive without assistance. In that case preference will be given to the most vulnerable groups, namely children, pregnant women, lactating women and people with disabilities.”

In Mauritania half a million people are threatened with hunger. According to a survey conducted in February, 147,507 people could be suffering from acute malnutrition. Caritas Mauritania will provide food and farming assistance to 23,300 people. Access to adequate food and water remains the number one problem and Caritas is working to protect people’s livelihoods while providing food and other assistance.

Nigerian bishop fears for the worst from attacks by Fulani herdsmen. “PLEASE DON’T make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda. It happened under our noses, but no one stopped it. And we know well how that ended.” These are the words of Bishop William Amove Avenya of the Diocese of Gboko, in Benue State, Nigeria, where Christians form the majority of the population.

In recent days there have been new attacks in the area of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, killing more than100 people.