Brussels, 3 June 2008
The European Commission has allocated an additional €5 million to reduce acute malnutrition and mortality in West Africa's Sahel region. The aid targets the most vulnerable – in particular an estimated 1.3 million acutely malnourished under-five as well as five million pregnant and breast-feeding women. The countries covered are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as well as the Sahel regions in the north of Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria and Togo. The €5 million is in addition to the €25 million already made available in June last year (see IP/07/785) and the extra €5 million allocated for further food aid in the Sahel this year. The recent massive global increase in food prices has further intensified the pressure on the most vulnerable groups in a region chronically prone to crisis.
Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: "Vulnerable people in the Sahel already barely cope with the regular cycle of droughts, locust infestations, epidemics and food shortages. Soaring prices for food staples makes their nutritional situation even worse and could trigger a humanitarian disaster. The Commission's response is two-fold: fresh funding and intelligent spending. Our humanitarian aid plan for the Sahel is a good example of how we are proactively tackle not just acute malnutrition, but also its root causes."
While responding to immediate needs, the Commission's humanitarian aid in the Sahel complements the longer-term European Development Fund which aims, among other things, to help the Sahel countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing hunger and poverty and infant and maternal mortality. Child mortality in the Sahel is one of the highest in the world and malnutrition is associated with six out of ten child deaths – or 300,000 children under the age of five dying of malnutrition or related causes every year.
The Commission' approach aims to manage future external shocks better. Regarding children, the aim is to act before the severe malnutrition stage by treating infants that are moderately malnourished. The Sahel plan finances ready-to-use therapeutic food and medical care as well as the provision of treated mosquito nets, training for health workers, malnutrition prevention programmes and support to local systems to detect malnourished children earlier.
In Niger, Commission-funded humanitarian projects have helped to lower the overall Global Acute Malnutrition rate in malnourished children, a key humanitarian indicator, from well over 15% in 2005 to 10% in 2007.
All funds are channelled through the Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. The projects are implemented by non-governmental relief organisations, specialised UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement. ECHO has a regional support office in Senegal's capital, Dakar, and field experts in Niger and Burkina Faso. They closely follow developments in the humanitarian situation, play an active role in the local coordination of relief efforts and monitor the use of the Commission's relief funds.
The Commission gives particular attention to improving the linkage between relief and development assistance to boost the long-term sustainability of humanitarian aid and to mainstream humanitarian concerns into development aid planning. ECHO therefore coordinates closely with the Commission services responsible for development policies and programmes, notably in the context of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). All the relevant 10th EDF country strategy papers now include measures to respond to nutritional insecurity in the Sahel.
Full text of the humanitarian funding decision: