Kenya: UN wants upscaled effort in tackling Sahel food insecurity

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The United Nations Friday called on the international donor community to renew a commitment to fight hunger and food insecurity in the Sahel.

And the best way to go about it is by protecting and strengthening the resilience of the poor and very poor families in the region, the UN food and agriculture said in a news dispatch from Rome.

Various factors, including the impacts of several ongoing conflicts and recurring droughts are exacerbating food insecurity in the region.

FAO and the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, is also disturbed by the conflicts.

In February, FAO appealed to donors for US$116 million to assist more than 7.5 million vulnerable people in the Sahel.

To date, only US$16 million, or less than 14 percent, have been received.

"If we are going to break out of this cycle of chronic crises across the Sahel region, emergency assistance to vulnerable farmers and pastoralists has to be considered a top priority," Piper said.

"The best way to reduce tomorrow's emergency case-load is to help households protect their assets today," he added.

"Due to funding gaps, interventions that could prevent the food security situation from worsening are delayed and the capacities of vulnerable communities to cope with repeated shocks are deteriorating," said Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director-General, FAO Regional Office for Africa.

This year, as part of a commitment to zero hunger in the Sahel region, the UN and humanitarian partners launched an ambitious three-year Regional Strategic Response Plan for the Sahel this year.

The plan is geared towards supporting resilience over the longer-term by tackling the root causes of hunger.

The plan also includes the rapid scaling-up of measures to meet the immediate food security and nutritional needs of those at-risk.

Over the years, despite efforts by governments and partners to fight hunger in the Sahel, the situation remains of major concern.

In February 2014, more than 20 million people were suffering from food insecurity.

This situation is exacerbated by the current lean season and the resultant depletion of food stocks. In addition, the rainy season has so far been patchy, with abundant rainfall in the West of the sub-region (except in Senegal).

There has been below-average precipitation registered in parts of the East, notably Nigeria, Togo, Benin along the Gulf of Guinea, and in Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

Below average rains have, in particular, delayed planting activities in Senegal and Chad. Chronic food insecurity in the Sahel is deteriorating further due to population displacement, says the UN.

Displaced people from the Central African Republic and Nigeria who have been seeking refuge in Cameroon, Niger and Chad, are requiring urgent assistance.

In many cases and in order to meet part of the refugees needs, host families are using their own food reserves and their limited resources.

FAO's funding appeal for US$116 million for the Sahel is a part of a wider US$2.2 billion funding appeal by the humanitarian teams across the region, which is today financed at only 29 percent.
-0- PANA DJ/VAO 25July2014

25 july 2014 14:47:18

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