Irregular rains in 2009 led to severe shortages of pasture and water and a poor harvest in early 2010 in several West African countries. These factors contributed to worsening food insecurity. An estimated 10 million people are said to be affected in the Sahel region alone, 80 per cent of whom are located in the Niger. Mali and Mauritania respectively count 260,000 and 370,000 affected people.
The acknowledgement by the new authorities in the Niger of the seriousness of food insecurity and malnutrition has created a more conducive environment to address humanitarian concerns and has led to the launch of an international appeal for $133 million in April 2010. However, additional resources are still needed for the consolidated appeal for West Africa for 2010, seeking $507 million to support emergency relief activities in the region.
The humanitarian community underscores the importance of developing comprehensive long-term strategies to address the recurrent and complex nature of the food crisis and malnutrition in that part of the Sahel and West Africa as a whole.
UNOWA works closely with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) in strengthening the UN’s regional humanitarian response. This translates particularly in advocacy, protection and contingency planning as well as in the actions of the SRSG in the areas of preventive diplomacy or mediation. Therefore, the Head of OCHA’s regional office for West Africa is also the special adviser to UNOWA’s SRSG concerning humanitarian affairs. This politico-humanitarian cooperation works in full during the regular high level meetings of the SRSGs as well as of the Force Commanders - Sahel