Brussels, 3 August 2010
European Commission requests further humanitarian funding to respond to the worsening food crisis in the Sahel and Sudan
In response to the worsening food crisis affecting the Sahel and Sudan, Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva announced today that the Commission has proposed an additional €40 million in humanitarian funding to be drawn from the EU budget's Emergency Aid Reserve. €30 million of this would be additional funding for the Sahel and €10 million for Sudan. This extra €30 million will bring the total humanitarian aid funds allocated by the Commission to fighting malnutrition in the Sahel since the end of 2009 to €98 million. The additional funds will be used to boost the humanitarian aid operations carried out by European Commission humanitarian aid partners and will help provide food assistance to over 500,000 extra beneficiaries during the next critical months until harvest time in October. Currently, over 10 million people in the Sahel region are at risk of food insecurity. Of these over 7 million are in Niger and 3 million of these are considered to be severely food insecure and in need of urgent food assistance.
Commissioner Georgieva said: "During my visit to Niger in early June I saw for myself the scale of the food crisis affecting the Sahel region and the ensuing large numbers of severely malnourished children brought for treatment to Commission funded nutrition centres. Thanks to the timely and significant food assistance funded by the European Commission and the good work of our partners over the past months many lives have been saved. However climatic, economic and nutritional conditions have further worsened for millions of people living in the "drought belt" of Sahel but also in Sudan, where people already suffer from a conflict situation. We need to do more and we must act quickly if we want to avoid adults and children dying from starvation. The next few months until the next harvest will be a critical time. With the additional funding that we have requested we will be able to help hundreds of thousands more people more to survive through this hungry period".
The risk of a looming food crisis in the Sahel was identified by humanitarian aid experts from the European Commission as early as September 2009. The Commission reacted swiftly to the first reports of erratic rains which resulted in poor harvests and allocated €10 million in December 2009. Since then, the European Commission has been working closely with its non-governmental, Red Cross and United Nations partners to raise awareness of the scale of the crisis and of the need to work pro-actively to ensure that funds and food were available in time to help. Subsequent allocations of humanitarian aid in response to the growing food crisis included €20 million in January 2010 to fund the 2010 Sahel Global Plan to fight malnutrition of children in the Sahel and a €24 million food crisis response decision in June 2010. €14 million was also allocated in 2010 in Chad for food assistance for the victims of drought.
Extensive poverty and lack of infrastructure and basic services mean that large parts of the population in the region are extremely vulnerable to external shocks such as climate change and high food prices.
The current "lean period" between harvests is the most difficult part of the year for these vulnerable households. This year's food shortages caused by last year's erratic rains and drought compounded by continuous high food prices have aggravated the situation and pushed many households over the edge into crisis. Acute malnutrition rates are rising rapidly and emergency food and humanitarian assistance is necessary to enable the most vulnerable households to survive through the hungry period until the next harvest in November.
The countries most affected by the food crisis in the Sahel region are Niger and Chad with many pockets of severe malnutrition also identified in northern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and northern Cameroon. Although less severe than in Sahel, the impact of the drought in Sudan has further compounded the situation of thousands of people exposed to violence and displacement in the Darfur and in the southern part of the country.
The Commission's food assistance draws on previous experience and is based on a wider toolbox of ‘smart food assistance’ solutions. One of the main lessons from the 2005 drought is that early diagnosis and rapid treatment are essential. The funding will target the most vulnerable populations and finance operations in the nutrition and health sectors, including short-term food assistance, the treatment of malnourished children, and livelihood support to pastoralist and nomadic populations.
The Commission also promotes local food purchases. This year's rains have been adequate so far which gives hope for a better harvest in Niger this year. If the harvest is good by September, priority should be given to cash transfers, allowing beneficiaries to purchase directly from small local food producers. This is cost-effective and helps small scale farmers who are the main victims of this year's drought. It also avoids the risk of imported food aid interfering with local market conditions and preserves the dignity of the population.
Beyond the humanitarian response, the EU established the Food Facility, funded with €1 billion, in 2008 as a reaction to the food price crisis. Projects have been initiated in Burkina Faso and Niger to encourage increased agricultural production. In Mali, the Food Facility supports a project that aims, among other things, at improving the nutrition status of mothers and infants by distributing essential vitamins, minerals and medicines.
Funds are channelled through UN agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations.
For information on Commission's humanitarian aid:
For Q&A on Sahel:
For the Communication on Humanitarian Food assistance: