In a bid to tackle the underlying causes of hunger in Africa’s Sahel region, where a majority of the 68-million strong population are malnourished or constantly threatened by famine, the United Nations today brought together representatives of 11 countries for a two-day meeting to draft a long-term action plan.
“How many precious lives must we still lose to hunger before we finally decided to do everything in our power and unite our forces to face up to the challenges hurled at us by nature and poverty,” the Director of the West Africa regional office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Hervé Ludovic de Lys, said at the opening of the meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The meeting is the second such session organized by the UN under the auspices of the Permanent Inter-State Committee for the Struggle against Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), the band of land south of the Sahara, to draw up an action plan with “medium- and long-term measures to address the underlying structural causes that exacerbate food insecurity.”
Specialized UN agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Development Porgramme (UNDP), regional and non-government organizations (NGOs), and international aid bodies from France, Germany, Italy, the European Union and the United States, among others, are taking part.
Since 1972, the Sahel countries - Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal - have suffered acute food crises about every 10 years, endangering the lives and health of the population and impeding development.
Apart from these countries, also participating are Ghana and Nigeria, which share important frontiers with Burkina Faso and Niger respectively.