As West Africa struggles with challenges posed by drought, locusts and civil unrest, United Nations relief officials called on the international community for more and consistent support for the region.
"Support for post-war recovery, education, vocational training and agricultural production go a long way towards helping West Africans build up their own defences against hunger and poverty," said Jean Jacques Graisse, senior Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Tuesday in Senegal.
While carrying out programmes to help Sahel communities cope with cyclical drought and locust invasions, WFP has maintained its focus on the unstable coastal nations, such as Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, particularly so since the outbreak early this month of violence in Côte d'Ivoire that caused thousands to flee to Liberia.
"This influx of refugees puts immense pressure on our already strained resources in West Africa," Mr. Graisse said. "The road to stability in this volatile region is long and difficult. The international community's commitment to much-needed humanitarian support during the process is indispensable."
WFP said it was storing food stocks near the border area where Ivorians are taking refuge. This week, the agency used UN helicopters to airlift 50 tons of emergency food.
Compelled by increased demand for emergency food, WFP is now appealing for $20 million to avoid a rupture to its operation in Liberia, which it plans to continue until March.
WFP said it also plans to launch a two-year, $155 million operation for 1.4 million displaced people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Mr. Graisse said in some countries locust infestation was also responsible for food insecurity, adding that as compared to other countries, Mauritania had suffered the most, with 100 per cent of its agricultural production zone infested. Locusts wiped out not only cereals, but also pulses and other vegetables.
Niger and Mali also suffered severe damage from locust, but the impact was localized, according to WFP.
Mr. Graisse said WFP would continue to assist more than 240,000 people in Senegal who had been displaced as a result of civil and ethnic strife in Casamance region.