In the Sahel region, resilience can save lives

By mhart

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As international leaders gather in Brussels on Monday for a High Level Consultation on the Sahel food crisis, more than 18 million people are already at risk. In anticipation of this opportunity to address the emergency and invest in drought resilience, Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, said:

“This meeting comes at a critical juncture – communities across seven Sahel countries are set to enter the peak of the food crisis. The first priority must be to fill the funding gap. Many governments in the region have taken the lead in developing response plans and donors have responded, including the United States with a $308 million contribution. But the UN estimates that nearly one billion dollars are still needed to provide immediate life-saving aid. The United States must stand alongside other donors in bridging this critical funding gap.

“The meeting also offers an opportunity to develop a concrete plan to help smallholder food producers rebuild their livelihoods and prepare for the next planting season. Drought is not a new problem in the Sahel, and we know it’s not going away. What farmers and pastoralists need more than anything are sustainable solutions to build a better future for their families. The leaders coming together on Monday must prioritize resilience strategies that reduce the vulnerability of communities to shocks such as drought.

“The United States has shown strong leadership in East Africa on the issue of resilience – working with communities to strengthen their ability to prepare for and respond to climate-related shocks. Now it’s time to rally the international leaders around the table to do the same for the Sahel region and break the cycle of drought and hunger. The EU’s plan for a Partnership for Resilience in the Sahel is an important step toward making this happen.

“As the leaders discuss how a new regional partnership for resilience will be developed, civil society must be active partners in the process. At the most practical level, resilience projects – like investing in small farmers, scaling-up safety nets, and developing a system of food reserves – simply cannot happen without strong support and partnership in the local communities. Civil society is not only a key partner in the success of food security projects, but also a powerful voice to hold national governments accountable for following through on these policies.

“The Conference must also address the current political situation in Mali. Political instability and insecurity are complicating an already difficult response. Reaching those most in need must be prioritized. Donors must lay out a clear plan to restart long-term aid to Mali – assistance that is critical to tackle the underlying conditions that have led to the current spike in hunger in Mali and across the Sahel.”