Brussels, 18 June 2012
Sahel food crisis– Commission scales up assistance and launches a Partnership for Resilience in Sahel
The European Commission is increasing its humanitarian funding to the Sahel by €40 million, bringing its response to the food crisis to €337 million. This extra funding comes just weeks before the food crisis is set to peak across the region where 18 million people are in danger from hunger.
The funding increase comes just as the European Commission is hosting a high level gathering on the Sahel hunger crisis. International donors, representatives from Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Nigeria- as well as international and local organisations are attending. Among the delegates are Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Nancy Lindborg, the Assistant Administrator for Democracy at USAID.
The meeting aims to launch a new partnership on strengthening the resilience of the Sahel to future crises. The initiative, called AGIR Sahel (Alliance Globale pour l'Initiative Resilience), has one core aim: to make sure that the people in the Sahel can better cope with future droughts.
Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response said: "This funding is about saving lives in an emergency. It is our last chance to get to people when the crisis peaks. Right now people across the Sahel are starting to scrape the bottom of empty grain stores. Their only remaining options are to sell their animals, farm tools and eat the grain they should now be planting for the next harvest. This funding is aimed at preventing people having to make these desperate choices. The result is that they will be more resilient for future shocks that may occur".
Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs added: "In today's world, it is difficult to accept that some people don’t have enough to eat. This can be prevented by working with Sahel countries and international partners to put in place sound agricultural systems to prevent future crisis. Yet such resilience cannot be built overnight. The AGIR Sahel Initiative will bring together all the key players in this challenge and give people in the region hope for a more stable future in the long term. The EU will play its part by focusing its aid on agriculture and food security in the coming years. This is one of the key foundation on which we can build sustainable and inclusive growth".
The European Commission is the leading humanitarian donor in this year's Sahel food crisis. It has reached nearly 7 million people with its funding. The Commission provided support as soon as the warning signs for hunger began to flash in 2011, and has remained at the forefront of international efforts to reduce emergency needs leading up to the peak of the crisis in the coming weeks.
The €40 million of funding proposed today would go towards blanket feeding programmes for children and distribution of food to the poorest households. Where food is still available on local markets, the funding will be used to distribution money to people to buy food for themselves. Part of this funding will also help provide food, water, health care and shelter for the estimated 400,000 Malians displaced by conflict.
The European Commission has invited to the meeting high-level representatives from EU Member States, the United States, Norway, Brazil, the United Nations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, as well as Ambassadors of countries in the Sahel and representatives of two regional organisations (ECOWAS and UEMOA) and civil society representatives. The meeting is dedicated to finding lasting responses to the food and nutrition crises which have affected the Sahel region of West Africa.
The EU in the Sahel
The European Commission, the leading donor in terms of funding for this crisis, was also the first off the mark in the early stage of the crisis, in late 2011 (with €10 million of funding in November 2011). Successfully translating early warning into early action has already saved thousands of lives among the 18 million people, across 8 countries of the Sahel, affected by this food crisis. The Commission's aid is reaching out proactively to the most vulnerable: one million children under two years of age and 500,000 pregnant and breast-feeding mothers.
To address the chronic food security problem in the Sahel, in addition to the €337 million allocated to the current food crisis and conflict in Mali, another €208 million is already in place to fund on-going food security projects. This brings the Commission's total commitment to better food security in the Sahel to over €500 million.