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Bordering the Sahara Desert to the north, the semi-arid Sahel region cuts across the West African nations of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.

Adding to the poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition which already affect these countries to varying degrees, drought, failed harvests and the high prices of staple foods have hastened the arrival of this year’s “lean season” – the worst since 2014. Up to 5.8 million people risk severe hunger between June and September. If the response is not adequate, this number could rise to 6.5 million.

Women and children will be the hardest hit. Families have reported cutting down on daily meals and children are too weak to attend school. Up to 5.5 million children across the six countries are at risk of acute malnutrition, including 1.6 million facing severe acute malnutrition – a 50 per cent increase over last year. 

Poor rainfall has not only destroyed harvests but also reduced the availability of fodder and water for cattle. Early livestock migration is causing overgrazing and tensions between nomadic herders and local communities.  

Political instability, conflict and insecurity – including extremism – in some Sahel countries are further exacerbating the situation, including by weakening the flows of food, trade and aid. In Burkina Faso and Mali, some of the worst-hit populations are in hard-to-reach, insecure areas where the delivery of assistance is difficult. Border closures in Niger and Chad are preventing herders from reaching pastures and markets to sell their livestock – a typical mechanism they use to cope when food is scarce. 

To save lives and avert famine, the World Food Programme is providing emergency food and cash assistance to the most food insecure, aiming to reach 3.5 million people across the six countries.

WFP also supports the resilience of individuals and communities through the building or rehabilitation of infrastructure, the diversification of livelihoods, the restoration of ecosystems and the provision of school meals and nutrition support.

In Niger, WFP has shored up the livelihoods of a million people in 2017 through the creation of village assets – including “half-moon” irrigation systems that help channel water into the arid soil, allowing crops to grow – and social protection measures.

5.8 million people
in six countries will need food assistance between June and September 2018
5.5 million children
are at risk of acute malnutrition
US$184 million
is needed to meet the needs of 3.5 million people during the next six months

WFP in the Sahel

What the World Food Programme is doing in the Sahel

  • Burkina Faso

    Food and cash assistance kicked off at the end of May in the country’s Sahel and East regions, where WFP plans to assist 725,700 people.
  • Chad

    Distribution of WFP food assistance for the lean season started in early May in the eastern region of Wadi Fira for five months, and continues in the five other Sahelian regions for more than 185,000 people. The aim is to support 700,000 during the lean season.
  • Mali

    WFP has completed March-to-May distribution for 186,000 people. In total, WFP Mali plans to assist more than 600,000 people during the lean season.
  • Mauritania

    WFP completed distributions to nearly 35,000 people in April and more than 65,000 in May. Overall, we plan to support more than 427,000 people through food distributions and cash assistance.
  • Niger

    Distributions began in June and are ongoing, with more than 400,000 assisted with food and cash, and nearly 25,000 children under two given supplements designed to prevent malnutrition. WFP plans to assist more than 830,000 people.
  • Senegal

    In the first half of June, WFP completed its first distribution of food vouchers to nearly 45,000 people in the northern Podor district. A second distribution of coupons coupled with a nutritional product is planned for more than 20,000 people in the department of Matam in July. To support the efforts of the Government of Senegal, a total of 140,000 people will be assisted during this lean season.

How you can help

Please donate today and help life-saving food reach those families who need it the most.