Government of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

Canada taking action to avoid severe crisis in Sahel

February 23, 2012

Ottawa — Today, the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced that Canada is taking action to prevent a famine and a severe humanitarian crisis in western Africa.

"Clearly, the people in the Sahel region are in need of help to face their unimaginable reality. Canada is deeply concerned about the impending food security and nutrition crisis in the Sahel," said Minister Oda. "We must act now with help for millions of people struggling to meet their immediate basic food security and nutrition needs to avoid a more tragic situation later."

In many countries in the Sahel region of Africa, people are suffering from a combination of years of drought, extreme poverty, soaring food prices and reduced pastoral productivity. The people in the region are among the world's most vulnerable. The region has some of the worst child mortality rates, and in many areas, acute malnutrition is above emergency thresholds. Chad is currently suffering from the worst cholera epidemic in its history. In some countries, this is compounded by having to recover and still suffering from conflict and violence resulting in displacement. The UN estimates that more than 10 million people in the Sahel may be affected if an intensified food crisis develops any further. The countries most affected are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

"Canada is helping to improve access to food and to provide lifesaving nutritional support through a number of activities, including the distribution of emergency food rations, supporting community-based treatment of acute malnutrition, and improving access to safe water for men, women and children facing this very complex humanitarian situation," Minister Oda said.

Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will support UN organizations such as the World Food Programme and UNICEF, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Canadian non-governmental organizations with $41 million. These organizations will work to prevent and relieve a humanitarian crisis, providing food and nutrition assistance to people in need. This is in addition to CIDA's long-term development programming in the region, which supports African efforts to improve agricultural productivity and reduce chronic food insecurity.

The Government of Canada hopes to avoid a severe crisis and will continue to monitor the developing situation closely.

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For more information, media should contact:

Justin Broekema
Press Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation
Telephone: 819-953-6238

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Telephone: 819-953-6534


Today's announcement provides support to ongoing relief efforts for vulnerable populations facing a food security and nutrition crisis.

Sahel region

The Sahel region is facing a food security and nutrition crisis caused by a combination of erratic rainfall, chronic poverty, high food prices, and little time to recover from multiple droughts in recent years. The crisis is expected to affect 10 million people in areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, with parts of Cameroon and Senegal also at risk.

CIDA will be supporting the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the United National Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Committee of the Red Cross and Canadian non-governmental organizations operating in the region to provide food and non-food items to the most vulnerable populations and minimize the humanitarian impact of this emerging crisis in the Sahel region. This will include food and nutrition assistance, agriculture and pastoralist support, water, sanitation, basic health care, logistics and coordination, and protection in some of the most difficult environments in the world.

Ongoing CIDA bilateral programming in the Sahel region

The humanitarian assistance announced today is in addition to CIDA's long-term development programming in several countries in the region, which aim to improve agricultural productivity, increase food security and reduce poverty.

Some examples of CIDA's bilateral food security efforts in the Sahel region include the following:

  • In Mali, CIDA is increasing attention to the areas of irrigation and agricultural development initiatives (use of new methods and techniques), as well as access to credit. CIDA's programming allows subsistence farmers to increase their production, which in turn helps to ensure food security and price stability in urban centres. CIDA's initiatives in access-to-credit and to agricultural technique improvements will allow Mali to increase its exports in the sub-region, thus responding to the growing demand and improving regional food security and economic growth in Mali:

  • In Senegal, CIDA has a particular focus on the Niayes and Casamance regions, seeking to improve the productivity of small farmers, increase product diversification and commercialisation, and improve access to microfinance in rural areas:

  • In Niger, CIDA is strengthening the capacities of rural communities, with a focus on women, to prevent and manage food crises in the areas of Tahoua and Keita. CIDA's engagement is empowering rural communities by creating grain banks and providing training on their sustainable management, and is supporting agricultural production and training food security committees and communal councils to monitor the local food situation: