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May 29, 2012

CSIS - Sahel Region Food Security Caused by Chronic Malnutrition, Not a Short Term Emergency

Op-Ed Sahel Region Food Security and Malnutrition Problems Misdiagnosed by Majority of International Aid Agencies and the Media

International aid agencies are fundamentally misdirecting their efforts on Sahel region food security argue experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in an op-ed piece published in AllAfrica.com.  According to Ambassador William J. Garvelink, senior adviser with the Project on U.S. Leadership in Development at CSIS and Farha Tahir, program coordinator and research associate with the CSIS Africa Program, the crisis in Sahel region food security is not solved simply with large quantities of food aid.  

In the authors' opinion, Sahel region food security is about:
  • "chronic food insecurity that requires a focus on long-term food production and malnutrition rates. The classification of an emergency, therefore, looks very different in the Sahel than in other parts of the world."

  • "...dealing with the underlying causes of this chronic crisis: lack of community resilience. The real crisis in the Sahel is one of persistently high rates of acute malnutrition, an issue that has affected the region's residents for decades and cannot be addressed with short-term emergency food assistance alone. It requires a more robust response."

  • "not addressing the fact that agricultural production in the Sahel is on the increase and that markets are functioning. The Sahel has experienced not just sizeable harvests but exceptional ones in 2008 and 2010. ...the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) estimates that this year's production will be sufficient, even before food aid, to meet the region's food requirements. ...The more pressing issue, then, is not one of low production or failing markets, but a resilience deficit."

  • "a resilience deficit range from matters of cultural practice (including certain infant care practices) to larger development challenges, including lack of access to safe water, inadequate health care and nutrition, and poor sanitation. "

  • "chronic malnutrition in children is region wide, affecting an estimated 40 percent of those under five years of age. ... the Sahel [has] some of the highest child mortality rates and the highest acute malnutrition rates for children in the world, trends that have been true since the 1990s. The data also shows that malnutrition rates are not related to general food availabilities, food price fluctuations, or market interruptions and that child malnutrition is not limited to the most food insecure areas of the Sahel. Placing the current situation in this context demonstrates that it is not an aberration but a larger development challenge."
The authors' conclusion:

"The challenges of the Sahel suggest the time is right for a reexamination of how the international community makes assistance decisions about the world's food crises."

For more see:

"Africa: Misunderstood - Getting the Right Response to Food Shortages in the Sahel," AllAfrica.com, 29 May 2012.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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