16 January 2006 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today called on the international community to fully support its efforts to tackle hunger and poverty in West Africa, saying it has a “huge job to do in 2006” to assist the poorest region of the world.
The Rome-based agency said this year it was aiming to feed at least 10 million people in West Africa with over 300,000 tons of food at a cost of approximately $237 million. However so far only pledges totalling $18.4 million – or about 8 per cent of total requirements – have been confirmed.
“Almost every social and economic indicator sees West African countries at the base of the list. The need for humanitarian assistance is in many cases overwhelming, but the ability to deliver it is not always guaranteed,” said WFP Senior Deputy Executive Director, Jean-Jacques Graisse, who is on mission to Senegal.
“As we’ve learned time and time again, delivering late costs far more than delivering now,” Mr. Graisse observed, noting that living conditions in the countries of the African Sahel – a band of land south of the Sahara – was getting worse.
“The Sahel region has for too long been allowed to slip deeper and deeper into poverty, despite relative stability and democratic government. Access to food is at the very heart of human existence and yet poverty means that millions of people right here in West Africa wake up each day uncertain how they are going to feed themselves,” he said.
The countries of the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal – have suffered acute food and nutritional crises about every 10 years since 1972, and WFP said today that its operation in Niger still required nearly $22 million to avoid a break in food supply as early as next month.
WFP said the situation in war-devastated Liberia improved after the elections at the end of last year but noted that Côte d’Ivoire “teeters between peace and renewed conflict that has the potential to destabilize much of the region.”
WFP’s current operation in Ivory Coast targets nearly 1 million food-insecure people, with a contingency plan to feed an additional 350,000 should the situation deteriorate. The agency is also helping to feed more than 200,000 refugees in eastern Chad who have fled from Sudan’s Darfur conflict.
Throughout the West African region, WFP has a total of 18 offices in countries that are classified as “low-income, food-deficit.” An estimated 3.2 million children under the age of five in the region suffer from acute malnutrition and 9 million from chronic malnutrition, the agency said.