May 31, 2018 | Food security

For several years now, drought in the Sahel region of West Africa has been devastating depriving millions of people of their livelihood. The Sahel region covers Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea. The occurrence of drought in the region has led to an environmental crisis, food insecurity, and political instability.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that the Sahel and West Africa are likely to face harsh climatic conditions in the future. This casts doubt on the progress of the zero hunger in Africa by 2025 initiative especially since much of the Sahel region is still characterized by underdevelopment, humanitarian crises, barren soil, and little or no rainfall to support agricultural production making it one of the most fragile ecosystems in Africa. Despite efforts to rehabilitate the region, desertification has become a serious issue that has undermined the productive capacity of land in the entire area while endangering human survival. This can happen when land is subjected to poor farming practices and deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that land use practices that have contributed to food insecurity coupled with climate change continue to occasion flash floods and drought making over 80 per cent of land susceptible to land degradation.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) noted that increasing population, poor land practices, over-reliance on forest products lead to loss of forest cover. Water scarcity is a norm for  Sahelians; they have to deal with limited fresh drinking water, seasonal watercourse or availability only in the river bed. The recurrence of drought in the Sahel has weakened and affected the region’s resilience to drought. The persistent drought subjects 30 million people to poverty where 12 million of them are in dire need of aid. This figure continues to rise since the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that in 2012, 11 million people faced food insecurity

Due to increased cases of drought-related conflicts, an underlying scramble for diminishing resources exposes the entire region into unending violence, banditry, and insecurity especially in the central and northern regions leading to the displacement of almost 30million people.

Shortage of water and poor hygienic conditions increase a community’s vulnerability to diseases. However, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes that an estimated 6 million children under five and pregnant women are in need of help.  Of these 1.4 million children face acute malnutrition while 3.3 million are expected to suffer from the same. 

Lake Chad region is a priority area in need of humanitarian assistance with nearly 11 million people affected by the crisis. During the Oslo conference, donors pledge $458 million for the year 2017 and another $214 million going to  2018  relief assistance.

Persistent Sahel drought continues to drive millions of people into extreme poverty, a rise in armed conflict and food insecurity. Adding to the vulnerability are the harsh environmental conditions in the Sahel region thus threatening human and animal survival.

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