Sahel: Food Insecurity 2011-2012

Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future

Food security must be at centre of Africa’s development

Addressing hunger precondition for sustained human development in sub-Saharan Africa, UNDP Report says.

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Nairobi, Kenya — Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic resurgence unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) argues in the newly released Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future.

“Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition. Inclusive growth and people-centred approaches to food security are needed,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the launch today, attended by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki.

Arguing that action focused on agriculture alone will not end food insecurity either, the Report calls for new approaches covering multiple sectors; from rural infrastructure to health services, to new forms of social protection and empowering local communities. Ensuring that the poor and vulnerable have greater voice through strengthened local government and civil society groups is also needed to ensure food security for all.

The quickening pace of change and new economic vitality on the continent make this an opportune time for action, the Report says.

Hunger among plenty

“It is a harsh paradox that in a world of food surpluses, hunger and malnutrition remain pervasive on a continent with ample agricultural endowments,” says Tegegnework Gettu, Director of UNDP’s Africa Bureau.

In yet another paradox, sub-Saharan Africa’s high rates of economic growth in recent years – some of the fastest in the world – and improvements in life expectancy and schooling have not led to commensurate improvements in food security.

With more than one in four of its 856 million people undernourished, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s most food-insecure region. At the moment, more than 15 million people are at risk in the Sahel alone – across the semi-arid belt from Senegal to Chad; and an equal number in the Horn of Africa remain vulnerable after last year’s food crisis in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Hunger and extended periods of malnutrition not only devastate families and communities in the short term, but leave a legacy with future generations which impairs livelihoods and undermines human development.

Food security, as defined by the 1996 world leaders’ Food Summit, means that people can consistently access sufficient and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs for an active and healthy life at a price they can afford.

Freedom from hunger enables people to live productive lives and realize their full potential. In turn, higher levels of human development can further improve the availability of food, creating a virtuous cycle for all.

Policies to build food security

“Building a food-secure future for all Africans will only be achieved if efforts span the entire development agenda,” Helen Clark said.

While acknowledging that there are no quick fixes, the report argues that food security can be achieved through immediate action in four critical areas:

Increasing agricultural productivity: With a population projected to exceed two billion sometime after 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will need to produce substantially more food, while mitigating the stresses which agricultural production places on the environment.

Ending decades of bias against agriculture and women, countries must put into place policies which provide farmers with the inputs, infrastructure, and incentives which will enable them to lift productivity.

Encouraging the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Africa’s growing youth population to further stimulate rural economies is particularly important.

With two-thirds of working Africans making a living off the land, policies promoting agricultural productivity would stimulate economic growth, pulling people out of poverty through job and income creation, and increasing their capacity to save and invest in the future. This will also enable a more sustainable use of land and water resources.

Such action can make a difference. Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal One on halving hunger by 2015, partly by focusing on policies which encouraged cocoa farmers to boost output. Malawi transformed a food deficit into a 1.3 million tonne surplus within two years, thanks to a massive seed and fertilizer subsidy programme.

More effective nutrition: Countries must develop coordinated interventions which boost nutrition while expanding access to health services, education, sanitation, and clean water. The report cites research showing that mothers’ education is a more powerful factor in explaining lower rates of malnutrition in children than is household income.

In Senegal, coordinated and targeted actions across several ministries, supported by an increased national nutrition budget, helped to lower incidences of malnutrition in children -- from 34 to 20 percent between 1990 and 2005. In Tanzania, through similar efforts, children whose mothers received food supplements in the first three months of their pregnancies completed longer schooling periods.

Building resilience: Getting food from field to table in Sub-Saharan Africa is fraught with risk.

Countries should take measures to lower people’s and communities’ vulnerability to natural disasters and civil conflict, seasonal or volatile changes in food prices, and climate change.

The Report recommends social protection programmes such as crop insurance, employment guarantee schemes, and cash transfers – all of which can shield people from these risks and boost incomes.

Kenya, for instance, has developed a drought insurance scheme which delivers payments to smallholder farmers based on rainfall levels monitored by weather stations. Another example is Mozambique’s input trade fairs, which replenish seed stocks among families affected by drought.

Empowerment and social justice: Achieving food security in sub-Saharan Africa will remain out of reach so long as the rural poor, and especially women, who play a major role in food production, do not have more control over their own lives, the Report says.

Ensuring access to land, markets and information is an important step to empowerment. Bridging the gender divide is particularly vital: when women get access to the same inputs as men, yields can rise by more than 20 percent.

Access to technology can play an important role in channeling power to small land-owners by reducing transaction costs and increasing their bargaining power. The Ethiopia Commodity

Exchange, for instance, uses text messaging to disseminate price information to farmers, receiving 20,000 calls daily to a hotline which answers their questions.

Access must be coupled with more participation in civic debate. This in turn, must be linked with greater accountability by governments and other organizations.

For too long the face of Africa has been one of dehumanizing hunger. The time for change is long overdue, the Report argues.

“Africa has the knowledge, the technology, and the means to end hunger and food insecurity,” says Tegegnework Gettu.

The challenge is large, the time frame is tight, and the investment required is significant, but the potential gains for human development in the region are immense, the Report says.

Five months of crisis: Armed rebellion and military coup

Mali’s worst human rights situation in 50 years

“After two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960.” Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher Date: Wed, 16/05/2012

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in northern Mali and dozens have been subjected to arbitrary detention, extra-judicial executions or sexual violence including rape, Amnesty International said today.

In a report ‘Mali: Five months of crisis, armed rebellion and military coup’ Amnesty International catalogues a litany of human rights violations committed against the backdrop of a food shortage affecting 15 million people in the Sahel region.

“After two decades of relative stability and peace, Mali is now facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher who has just returned from a three week research mission to the country.

“The entire north of the country has been taken over by armed groups who are running riot. Ten of thousands of people have fled the region, creating a humanitarian crisis in Mali and in neighbouring countries.”

During the research mission Amnesty International delegates visited the Malian capital Bamako and four refugee sites in Niger, about 200 kilometres north of the capital Niamey.

According to testimonies taken by Amnesty International women and girls were raped, sometimes collectively, by armed men including by members of the MNLA, particularly in Menaka and Gao.

A 19-year-old female student who had fled to Bamako told Amnesty International:

“I was on the way to a friend’s house around 8pm with one of my classmates. On the way, a motorcycle carrying two Tamasheq [Tuareg] and a car full of armed men and captured women, stopped beside us. One of the two Tamasheqs on the motorbike was wearing a military uniform. They began to tell us that we should go with them to the camp because they needed women. We refused. My friend lied and said she was pregnant. One of the Tamasheks then made me go into an empty house. I told him I was menstruating. He ordered me to show him. I showed him the blood. He said ‘What’s that?‘ and raped me.”

All parties to the conflict are believed to be committing human rights violations and abuses. Malian soldiers beat and then extra-judicially executed three unarmed people accused of spying for the MNLA in Sevare (630 kilometres north of Bamako) on 18 April 2012. Other suspects are being held in locations not registered as places of detention such as the General Directorate of Public Security (Direction générale de la sécurité d’État or DGSE).

Similarly, Malian soldiers taken prisoner by armed groups have been ill summarily executed and some were ill-treated. Two Malian soldiers who had been taken prisoner in January 2012 before being released as part of an exchange described how some soldiers had been tortured and abused. Some had their throats slit.

Delegates found evidence of the presence of child soldiers within the ranks of the armed Tuareg and Islamists groups who took control of the north of the country.

Amnesty International has collected several testimonies indicating pressure from members of the Ansar Eddin armed group on people to change their behaviour, in accordance with their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

Witnesses said that the imposition of these new behaviours has been accompanied by intimidation and physical violence, including deliberate and arbitrary killings.

A resident of Gao said:

“Five days after the rebels took control of the city, a car was stopped at the edge of town by armed men. One of the car’s occupants then phoned the number given out by Ansar Eddin. They arrived immediately on the scene, they shot at the thieves, one was injured, the other ran off, a third was stopped and his throat slit.”

“Without coordinated action to protect human rights, uphold international humanitarian law and the assistance of displaced and refugee populations, the entire sub-region risks destabilisation through the effects of political instability, armed conflict in the north and the food crisis which affects the whole of the Sahel,” said Gaëtan Mootoo.

Amnesty International is calling all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to take the necessary measures to protect civilians and combatants captured during the conflict. The organization calls upon Malian authorities to put an end to the harassment of those who campaign peacefully for the return of the rule of law.

Amnesty International also calls on the armed groups who have taken control of the north to stop immediately sexual violence against women and young girls and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The organisation also urges the Malian authorities and armed groups to allow United Nations and other humanitarian agencies unrestricted access to refugees and internally displaced people, particularly in northern Mali.

UNICEF WCARO Situation Update No. 3 - Sahel Nutrition and Mali Complex Emergency

Nutrition crisis

- Some 1.1 million children under 5 will suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), or up to 1.5 million in the worst case scenario and 3 million children with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

- Number of children under 5 admitted to therapeutic treatment programmes for SAM is on the rise at the start of the dry season. 140,252 children under 5 have so far received lifesaving treatment for SAM across 5 of the 8 Sahel countries (see table 1 below, data from Burkina Faso, Mali & Mauritania not available at this time).

- The number of health centres with facilities for the treatment of SAM across the Sahel has now been scaled up from 3,100 in 2011 to 4,154.

Mali complex emergency

- The National Assembly of Mali estimates that the number of internally displaced is over 200,000; OCHA puts the number at 146,900. More than 190,000 have taken refuge in the neighbouring countries of Mauritania (63,913), Burkina Faso (56,817), Niger (39,388) and Algeria (30,000), of which more than half are children.

- UNICEF has full access to carry out activities for the nutrition crisis and the IDPs located in the south of Mali, and has sent humanitarian assistance into the four affected regions (Kidal, Gao, Kidal, Mopti and Timbuktu) to cover medical needs of 60,000 people.

- UNICEF, in coordination with other UN agencies and partners, is working on reassessing needs and solutions to expand its coverage in the north.

Emerging threats

- Cholera across the region is going to get worse as we approach the rainy season in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Mali; UNICEF is preparing for response across WASH, Health and community messaging. UNICEF will respond to epidemics such as measles, meningitis which could have a devastating effect on children that are already undernourished in the Sahel.


- Fundraising efforts for the Sahel crises continue, and as of 8 May: $79.1 million of the US$ 119.5 million requested (66 per cent) has been received for the nutrition crisis and $1.5 million of the US$ 18.8 million requested (8 per cent) has been received to meet the immediate needs of children and women displaced by the Mali conflict.

- A revised Humanitarian Action Update (HAU) will be released in June to reflect increased needs.

Burkina Faso: Food Security Outlook April through September 2012

Key messages

  • • Planned and ongoing food aid programs should keep very poor and poor households in potential problem areas (livelihood zones 8, 9, 7, and 5) in Phase 2 (stressed) of the IPC acute food insecurity phase scale between now and June.
  • • Problems in the far north (livelihood zone 8) and far east (the eastern reaches of livelihood zone 9) will reach crisis proportions between July and September with the steady influx of Malian refugees into livelihood zone 8 and increases in grain prices in both areas
  • • The current seasonal climate outlook calls for normal rainfall conditions between June and October of this year, suggesting good levels of crop and pasture production for the 2012/2013 agropastoral season

Food Crisis in West Africa: 18.4 million people at risk (as of 30 April 2012)

As a food crisis intensifies across the semi-arid Sahel region of West Africa, millions of farming and herding families are struggling to get enough to eat.