The food crisis that ravaged Africa’s western Sahel region throughout 2012 finally eased for many families when a new harvest came in. During a 16-month intervention, Oxfam helped 1.3 million people with a range of support including access to food and clean water. Now, building resilience to future weather-related crises is our priority.
The first red flags warning of a new food crisis in the Sahel went up in late November 2011 when experts began predicting a below-average harvest in a region that has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. When it hit, the crisis ensnared more than 18 million people, many with severe consequences.
Hundreds of thousands of families cut back their meals to just one a day, and the lives of more than one million children were at risk. At the peak of the crisis, parts of Mauritania, Mali, and Chad were only one step above a famine designation.
As the warning signs mounted, Oxfam launched a response that stretched from November 2011 to March 2013, using all the techniques we have honed over decades of emergency work. We reached people in seven countries with programs that included cash-based interventions, food, water and sanitation services, and steps to boost the ability of families to support themselves.
But our job is not done.
Now, we need to help people get back on their feet and build resilience to future crises, with programs to provide seeds and tools, safe water facilities, improved early-warning systems, and grain-storage banks. And we need to continue supporting and pressuring local and national governments to prioritize the needs of the poorest communities.