Today, 18.7 million people are affected by the crisis, more than 1.1 million people are suffering from severe malnutrition and an additional 3 million have moderate malnutrition.
CARE is on the ground in Chad, Mali and Niger, where millions of people are and in dire need of assistance, relief and long-term planning. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, especially those under the age of 2. CARE’s emergency response and recovery program has reached more than 750,000 people with emergency assistance by providing access to food via cash transfer and direct distribution, and improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene. At the same time CARE’s long-term development programs such as women-led savings groups and cereal banks help people build and protect assets. In CARE’s experience, empowering women strengthens community resilience during crises.
However the humanitarian situation is dire:
Floods in Niger: The monsoon season and above-normal temperatires triggered heavy downpours and flash floods during this year’s rainy season, displacing hundreds of thousands families more and devastating some farms already hit by a severe drought and acute food shortages. Rainfall was more than 150 percent above normal from late July to late August. As of September 12, 2012, the flood had displaced 527,471 people and killed 81 others. Most of homeless families ware located into school classrooms while some were leaving with their relatives. These conditions are still precarious as class will reopen early in October and at the same time rain continues in some of the affected areas.
Conflict in Mali: Exacerbating the situation is fighting in northern Mali which has prompted massive population movements within Mali and from Mali to Niger. Right now, more than 440,000 people are displaced. Some have stayed within the country borders, while many have fled to neighboring countries seeking refuge. Almost 70,000 Malians fled to neighboring Niger, putting more stress on the already vulnerable population. Out of the 4.6 million people affected by the food security and nutrition crisis in Mali, approximately 1.6 million live in northern Mali, where access is limited.
Locusts infestation threatens 50 million people; breeding under way: Desert locust infestation remains dangerous as more egg-laying and hatching are expected in the coming weeks. Agricultural crop production, food and nutrition security, and the livelihood of some 50 million people in Chad, Mali and Niger are currently at risk, according to the FAO. This threat is the most serious since 2005.
National action plans for desert locust operations have been developed in Mali, Niger and Chad in accordance with national contingency plans but additional funding is required to carry out these programs before harvests are completely wiped out.
Cholera outbreak: The advent of the rainy reason has increased the risk of waterborne diseases, including cholera. The situation is particularly worrying in Niger, where an epidemic in four districts along the Niger River has caused 71 deaths out of 3,423 cases reported since the beginning of the year. The region of Tillabéri, the most affected, has so far recorded 3,403 cases of cholera and 66 deaths. As of early July, no cholera cases had been reported in the refugee camps and sites hosting refugees from Mali throughout the country. To contain the epidemic, available water points are being treated and awareness campaigns being carried out using community volunteers and local radio stations. In Mali, a cholera outbreak was declared on July 2 in Wabaria district located by the River Niger (in Gao). As of August 10, 140 cases of cholera, including 11 deaths, have been reported in the Gao and Ansongo districts of northern Mali. CARE will continue to monitor the situation and work with our partners to respond as needed.
Sahel’s lean season: The Sahel region is currently in its ‘lean’ season, which is the rainy period between planting and harvesting crops. And while it has rained in the past weeks, millions of families still need support until crops can be harvested. In fact, for many households humanitarian assistance will be the main means of survival, according to the United Nations. Throughout the region, prices of basic staples (maize, millet, sorghum) have increased significantly – even doubled in certain places. Generally speaking, food is available, but people cannot afford it.
Coping strategies affect women and girls negatively: Food crises have severe effects on families and for the most part it is women and girls who take the hit. In certain regions, food crises increase the rate of divorces (e.g. in Maradi region, Niger, half of women divorce because of food insecurity); the head of family sees it as a way of having fewer mouths to feed. In other cases, food insecurity might contribute to early marriages; families give away their daughters (earlier) so they don’t have to feed them. Husbands and young men leave to find work abroad, leaving mothers to lead the family on their own. In harvest time, some husbands lock up the grain storage and ask their wives to make do for several months. Food insecurity forces many families to take their children out of school and help at home or find work; they soon become parents; they have children who don’t attend school either, and the cycle perpetuates.
CARE is responding in Chad, Mali and Niger with immediate and long-term programs:
Providing cash-for-work to help families buy food and protect their assets
Training nurses on prevention and management of malnutrition
Improving water and sanitation and promoting hygiene
Strengthening community cereal banks so families can buy food at reasonable prices, stocking animal feed banks and reinforcing community-based early warning systems
Working with women’s savings and loans groups to develop alternative sources of food such as community vegetable gardens and to increase community resilience
Helping people from Mali who have fled across the border into Niger with essential household items and hygiene supplies
“CARE is also putting in place long-term solutions so people in the Sahel region are less vulnerable to recurring crises,” explains Barbara Jackson.
CARE has worked in Chad, Mali, and Niger for almost 40 years, where we have successfully created and promoted women-led saving groups and cereal banks. In parallel to the emergency response, CARE is continuing our long-term development projects, which make people better equipped to handle future crises on their own.
Roadmap to End Global Hunger – Helene Gayle joined members of Congress – including Learning Tours alum Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) – and leaders of the NGO community on Capitol Hill on July 24 to launch the Roadmap for Continued Leadership to End Global Hunger. CARE is playing a leading role in ensuring that the Roadmap, supported by an unprecedented coalition of 50 organizations, outlines a comprehensive strategy to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. global food security programs. For more information, click this link to a World Food Program USA story containing a quote from Helene.
Read more at CARE.org.