CWS emergency appeal: Sahel (Africa) food crisis

May 9, 2012

Masbore village, Zondoma province, Burkina Faso. Food shortages could leave as many as two million people at risk in Burkina alone. Photo: Christian Aid.

Masbore village, Zondoma province, Burkina Faso. Food shortages could leave as many as two million people at risk in Burkina alone. Photo: Christian Aid.

Appeal #:  642-N
Appeal goal: $100,000


Unusually low rainfall has devastated food crops across the Sahel, a vast African region south of the Sahara desert. An estimated 15.5 million people are now affected by food insecurity in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. As conditions continue to deteriorate, more than 1 million children under the age of 5 are expected to experience severe malnutrition in the Sahel this year, according to UNICEF.

The Sahel is an ecologically fragile region with an increasingly dry climate. Due to inadequate rains in 2011, the region’s grain harvests are 2.6 million tons below normal. The prices of staple foods have risen across the region, and some of the hardest hit communities have only 15 percent of the grains they need.

Political upheavals in North and West Africa are also contributing to the food crisis. Conflicts in Ivory Coast, Libya and northern Nigeria have affected migrant workers who provide financial support to their families in the Sahel. A new outbreak of violence between rebels and government forces in Mali has displaced more than 220,000 people since January.

CWS response:

CWS is helping to provide food and other emergency assistance to more than 83,000 people in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal through Christian Aid. This includes targeted distribution of nutrition packs, with locally purchased food items, to  malnourished children and their mothers.

CWS is also helping communities supply their own food through projects led by Christian Aid. These interventions provide farmers with seeds, tools and animal fodder, support community cash-for-work projects to control erosion, subsidize rice sales by local farmers and promote sustainable livestock management. Assessments are underway to identify the most vulnerable households in the targeted communities, such as those with malnourished children or people with disabilities, and to provide them with further food assistance or cash transfers.

Relief efforts may be expanded to include people fleeing violence in Mali who are displaced within the country or in neighboring Burkina Faso. CWS will provide information on these plans as they develop.


CWS is supporting the following activities until September 2012 and will support further activities as they are planned.

Mopti region, Mali:

  • Supplying improved seeds to 12,600 people
  • Targeted rice distribution and subsidized rice sales to 9,179 people

Sahel region, Burkina Faso:

  • Targeted cereal distribution to 10,500 people
  • Cash-for-work projects benefiting 5,831 people
  • Seeds distribution to 3,500 people
  • Cash transfers to vulnerable households
  • Local market assessment
  • Education on livestock management for 7,500 people

Center north region, Burkina Faso:

  • Assistance to more than 6,000 people

Tahoua region, Niger:

  • Targeted cereal distribution to 3,500 people
  • Distribution of nutrition packs to 3,500 people
  • Cash-for-work and food-for-work projects benefiting 17,500 people

Tillabery region, Niger:

  • Assistance to 3,320 refugees

Fatick region, Senegal:

  • Targeted food distribution to 11,000 people
  • Distribution of improved seeds

How to help:

Financial contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts around the world may be made online, sent to your denomination, or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.

ACT Alliance  Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.