In the spring of 2012, Development and Peace launched an appeal because the Sahel region of Africa was on the brink of a major humanitarian crisis. This region, which runs beneath the Sahara desert, was facing catastrophic food shortages after erratic weather had caused the failure of crops. In addition, rising food costs made it increasingly difficult for families to access food.
It is estimated that as many as 12 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and parts of Nigeria and Cameroon, were at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition, and according to the United Nations, one million children were at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
Recurrent droughts had progressively eroded the capacity of communities to cope with poor harvests, which had increased their vulnerability. Faced with this dire situation, people were driven to put at risk their livelihoods by selling their livestock at reduced cost, eating grains meant to be sown to produce the next harvest and abandoning the countryside to find work in urban centres.
In addition, conflict in northern Mali between nomadic Tuareg tribes and Malian forces resulted in a coup d’état, which destabilized the region and exacerbated the situation by causing the displacement of 200,000 people.
Two years later, the situation remains fragile and thousands of people are living in chronic vulnerability. The United Nations estimates that 25 million people are affected by food insecurity. Development and Peace is still active in the region working in partnership with Caritas Internationalis to ensure that communities have access to food, but also to help communities build up their resilience to future crises. The organization is putting in place prevention programs to help ease the most devastating effects of the crisis. Many efforts still need to be made in the region.