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Sahel food crisis: Senegalese singer Baaba Maal performs benefit concert

Renowned singer Baaba Maal visits drought-affected communities to raise awareness in growing Sahel crisis. Patrick Ezeala/Oxfam America

The renowned singer Baaba Maal has intensified his call for an urgent response to the food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa. Maal, who has recently been named an Oxfam global ambassador, toured some villages in the Matam region of northeast Senegal last week.

The singer and his band, The Orchestre Daande Lenol (“voice of the people” in the Fulani language), held an all-night concert in Wodobere village to raise funds for affected communities.

Maal paused during the concert attended by 1,000 people in the remote village to speak about the food crisis in Senegal and other parts of West Africa. “There is a need to act fast to avoid the situation getting worse. We saw children who don’t even have water to drink. Everywhere it is dry, wells have dried up, and dead animals are littered everywhere.”

The morning after the concert, Maal visited the village of Mbelone located two and a half miles from Wodobere. “We face serious problems here. Our livestock are dying before our eyes,” said Ely Hamady Diallo, the chief of Mbelone, to Maal and a group of journalists. “If we humans do not have food to eat how can we feed our animals? Every other day we lose an animal -- the livestock are our livelihood.”

“I am here with Oxfam to call on governments and the international community to come and help,” Baaba Maal said to journalists after listening to the villagers. “We are demonstrating that artists are not just there to perform and make money. We can be agents of development.”

More than 18 million people are affected by the food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa owing to irregular rainfall last year, a lack of animal fodder, poor harvests, and lingering vulnerability from the 2010 food crisis. Rising food prices across the region and political conflict in Mali compound the situation. In Senegal, 850,000 people are affected. Oxfam’s response to the crisis will include: cash transfers so families can purchase food and agricultural inputs like seeds, as well as assistance to ensure people have clean water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance. With sufficient food and seeds, families stand a much better chance of a successful harvest this year.

Oxfam is aiming to help 1.2 million people across seven countries with programs that include cash transfers and cash-for-work initiatives, veterinary care for the livestock on which many families depend, and access to clean water and sanitation. We are also campaigning to change the root causes of this crisis. Find out how you can support our efforts.

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