Posted by Sophie Deraedt, EU Fundraising Officer at Plan International
Food insecurity is affecting millions of people from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa. This has long lasting negative impacts on entire populations, but it is children who are hardest hit. When food is scarce many children, especially girls, drop out of school to support their families in generating income to feed their siblings. The lack of access to food encourages many families to migrate, which jeopardizes children’s chances of completing their secondary education.
Under-5s most vulnerable
Poor children under the age of five are particularly vulnerable to the effects of severe acute malnutrition. In acute cases, children are at risk of stunting and suffer long-term physical, mental and emotional development disabilities or even death. Chronic malnutrition and related causes kills more than 200,000 children every year. But it does not stop there: the next generation will also be affected, as an adult who suffered from acute malnutrition will face a higher risk of maternal and child mortality, and the macroeconomic costs of malnutrition are estimated at 2-3% of GDP.
Additional funding announced
The UN estimates that $1.6 billion is needed to tackle the Sahel crisis, but so far donors have committed only 40% of the funds required. The European Commission’s announcement on Monday (June 18th) to provide an additional €40m for the region, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable – small households and children – is therefore very welcome.
Announcing the news, EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said, “The time to act is now.” With the crisis expected to peak in the coming weeks, her words couldn’t be more true.
But the EC, together with its partners, needs to go even further and increase the financial contribution to fill the current Sahel Appeal funding gap, which is particularly acute for the education and protection sectors.
Moving from relief to rehabilitation and development
It’s also important to remember that long-term financial and political commitment is needed to end hunger. This is a complex issue and there’s no one size fits all solution. We know that multiple factors must be addressed if we want to have a sustainable impact on the lives of these millions of people facing sudden or chronic food insecurity.
Joint action between development and humanitarian actors, which responds to both the immediate crisis and the root causes of vulnerability, is critical if countries of the Sahel are to make a successful transition from relief to rehabilitation and development.
Here, the Commission seems to be moving in the right direction. The SHARE initiative to support Horn Africa resilience was established in March, and more recently, the AGIR partnership for resilience in the Sahel, which aims to increase coordination amongst international, regional, and national actors, was announced by Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. Both initiatives will be implemented jointly by the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and development directorates.
The Commissioners seem to be committed to working together, which is a very important first step, but the effectiveness of the cooperation depends on the implementation of the various partnerships and initiatives which have been established.
Determined to make a dream a reality?
Speaking about ending hunger in the Sahel at Monday’s high level conference on building resilience in the region, Commissioner Geoergieva said, “The world is full of dreams that became a reality when people had the determination to make them so”. I couldn’t agree more, and the people of the Sahel are depending on the determination of international partners to help end hunger across the region once and for all.