Niger: A case in point

If you haven’t heard, there is another food crisis brewing in West Africa. Niger and Chad are most affected, but Burkina Faso and Mali are also hard hit. The UN estimates that 16 million people across the Sahel region could be affected by a dangerous combination of drought, high food prices and limited coping strategies for those whose seasonal labor is restricted by political unrest in neighboring Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.

Photo courtesy of Irina Fuhrmann/Oxfam.

This includes approximately 5.4 million people in Niger (35 percent of the population), 3 million in Mali (20 percent), 1.7 million in Burkina Faso (10 percent), 3.6 million in Chad (28 percent), 850,000 in Senegal (6 percent), 713,500 in the Gambia (37 percent) and 700,000 in Mauritania (22 percent). That’s a lot of people.

The impacts are shocking. In addition to the millions in need of emergency food aid, in Niger, thousands of children are being pulled out of school — and the numbers are only set to rise. As more and more families migrate in search of better economic opportunities, an estimated half million young students are at risk of dropping out.

Sadly, Niger is no stranger to food crises. This crisis is the third in less than a decade. In 2005, 3.5 million people were plagued by drought. Only five years later, in 2010, Niger experienced another severe food crisis that affected nearly 8 million people. The country has yet to fully recover from that catastrophe, making this year’s drought and food shortages even harder to bear.

But herein lies the problem. This doesn’t need to happen. Drought may be an act of nature, but famine is manmade. It’s no secret that preventing food crises takes investment in early warning systems, food reserves, better seeds and irrigation, and more peace and security. Even though we know it’s so critical to make these smart investments, not enough has been done — and that’s not ok.

In accordance with the Rome Principles of Aid Effectiveness, world leaders pledged to $22 billion over three years to reverse the decline in spending on agricultural development and food security. Although some progress has been made towards these goals, most donors are likely to come up short. With the financial pledges of the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative set to expire this year, the upcoming G8 summit at Camp David presents an opportunity for world leaders, governments and the private sector to break the cycle of hunger, poverty and malnutrition.

When the time comes, ONE hopes you will add your voice to the fight.