SENEGAL, Dakar 17 July, 2012 – A lack of ability to access, grow and store food year after year means millions of children in West Africa now live in a state of permanent food crisis, a new report published today finds.
“Ending the Everyday Emergency,” a study by World Vision, highlights the underlying factors in West Africa that are contributing to the food crisis putting more than one million children at risk of severe malnutrition this summer. It also identifies the opportunities being missed by governments to fix them.
“At the heart of this crisis is a lack of resilience among families,” said World Vision’s Chris Shore, Director of Natural Environment and Climate Issues.
“Hit by food crises in 2005, 2008 and 2010, families in parts of West Africa have not been able to get out of debt, restore their granaries or rebuild their herds. Combined with the failure of recent harvests, this has made the 2012 crisis a shock too far for most families, leading to even more chronic and acute malnutrition in children under the age of five.
“We need to see a united approach to tackling this, and ending recurring malnutrition among children in West Africa, starting today and continuing after this crises falls out of the public eye,” said Shore.
Even in a non-crisis year, children in parts of West Africa face the deadly and debilitating effects of malnutrition at higher rates than many others around the world.
“In many ways it’s a silent disaster. It is not an easy food crisis to see,” said World Vision’s Emergency Operations Director Jeffery Wright. “The numbers and the data are where the real story is. You can see it in the tiny arm circumference of the children under five; you can see it in the weight of the pregnant and lactating women. There you see the real food stress and chronically high malnutrition rates, a problem that keeps building year to year and makes people more vulnerable to crisis when the next harvest fails.”
The report highlights the benefits of how taking a comprehensive approach to resilience can improve child well being, and move the Sahel towards zero hunger, and zero malnutrition.
“Evidence from Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali indicates that new, low-cost agricultural techniques can dramatically improve small-scale farming, enabling poorer families to increase production of food crops and income,” said Shore. “Making nutrition the ultimate measure of success or failure for all food-related and resilience programmes in West Africa is the single best step governments and donors could take to improve the lives of children.”
“Overall, it can feel like a losing battle, going against the tide. The numbers of people in immediate need in this food crisis are in the millions,” said Wright. “For those who make it through, their resilience is lowered and the next drought will affect them even more. But the good news in all of this is where World Vision has the funding and does the programming, it works. We’re saving lives. It’s an area where we absolutely can make an impact.”