The Sahel food crisis made worse by Mali instability

By May 8, 2012

Gambia (MNN) — Mali's
political crisis may be making the threat of famine in the Sahel region worse.

Steve Watson, Director of Logistics for
Global Aid Network (GAiN USA), says their ministry is  coordinating shipments of food and seeds to the area. In one particular location where their teams are working,
"There are over 300,000 people who are looking for food. Those
are people who live in Gambia, refugees from Senegal, refugees from Guinea

Mali can't get to its food reserves, and borders are closed, says Watson, "This past year, over 80% of the crops failed, so there's the huge need for food. But
then there's the influx of refugees, which, given the instability in Mali, I wouldn't
be surprised to see more refugees."

When Mali's borders
closed, food prices went up fast. A news
release from Oxfam says 15 million people are at risk in the Sahel region which
includes Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia.

Acting early
costs less than waiting for the situation to get worse, explains Watson. "We've been able to ship four containers
to the region over the last six months. We've sent three containers of food to
the Gambia and one to Burkina Faso." However, the scope of the problem is growing
larger because "there's a call for more. Right now, in The Gambia alone,
they're asking for five more containers."

Funding for the
Sahel region is falling behind. Watson
says, "There can be a little bit of donor fatigue when you start hearing
crisis in East Africa, crisis in West Africa, and then the financial
situation the way it is around the world. People are not giving like they have in
the past." That means GAiN USA joins the ranks of the G8 countries struggling
to keep the donors interested in a relief effort to West Africa.  

In partnership with another ministry, GAiN can deliver a
balanced, nutritious, and vitamin-packed meal to people facing hunger around the
world. Watson says, "If you want to
send a meal to a starving person, it comes out to about 10 cents a meal with
the amount of meals that we're able to send."

Then, Watson explains, it gets shipped and distributed in-country. "We have a partner in The Gambia
who is working directly with government authorities to make sure that food gets
to the places that are most in need. It's amazing because this is a
non-Christian country. "

GAiN's partner is also bold in sharing the reason they're
responding, and that leads to a whole new road of opportunity, Watson adds. "While the Good News is not directly
given/tied to the aid, our ministry partner  is able to share. It's just been a God-send that
he's there and he's got this great network."

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