WINNIPEG, Man. – The rainy season was too short and the drought is crippling.
A food crisis is spreading across the southern edge of the Sahara, from Mauritania on the Atlantic to Sudan on the Red Sea. The United Nations says the disaster threatens 15 million lives and may grow to affect several million more.
While parts of the region have endured food crises over the past decade, the current situation is unique in its breadth, encompassing the entire Sahel, said Chad Warfel. He is one of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) representatives in Burkina Faso.
Warfel said the rains in Burkina Faso usually last from May or June to September. But in 2011 steady rain lasted for only three to four weeks, tapering off altogether within six weeks. “Already by September crops were drying up,” he said.
Many farm families began buying basic food grains – millet, sorghum, corn – even before the usual harvest months of October and November. Prices have soared beyond the means of farm families.
The Burkina Faso government has listed almost half of its 350 townships as grain-deficient and at risk of famine.
MCC is responding with more than $230,000 in support in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.
In Burkina Faso, MCC is in partnership with Office de Developpment des eglises Evangelique. In the rural township of Pella MCC is giving grain to the most destitute and selling it to other households at subsidized prices. Two grain banks will be strengthened. In the long term, this will give farmers a local market for their products and help provide stable food prices for the community.
MCC is a member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and is drawing on its account there to fund additional projects.
In Niger, MCC is supporting the emergency food assistance program operated by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CODP) and the Caritas Network. MCC is also supporting the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee program, which will bring food and tools to more than 4,000 households in Niger.
In Mali and Burkina Faso MCC is also working with CODP on emergency food distribution.
Emily Will is a freelance writer based in Frederick, Md.