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In spite of good harvests and rainfall, millions still face starvation in Africa's Sahel region

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

World hunger is a very complex problem. Case in point: in spite of rainfall and a good harvest, as many as 16 million people will face starvation in Africa's Sahel region. The reasons have to do with political unrest and stability throughout the area. Disruption in Nigeria, Central Africa Republic and Mali threaten to disrupt food distribution through the area.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Around 16 million people are at risk of going hungry across Africa's Sahel belt both from conflicts and rapid population growth, a senior U.N. official says.

High fertility rates have also fueled food shortages and high food prices across the savannah region. The fertility rate is 7.6 children per mother in Niger alone.

Coupled with other global wars, such as the one in Syria makes it difficult to raise donations like the one in  Sahel, Robert Piper of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says. Only 58 percent of the required $1.7 billion for 2013 has been met by donor funding thus far.

Food insecurity in the Sahel next year will increase by 40 percent. This is in sharp contrast to this year's figures, when 11.3 million people had inadequate food and required around $1.7 billion in donor assistance.

"These are the first indicators that the Sahel crisis is getting away from us," Robert Piper, OCHA coordinator for the Sahel said. "The numbers are getting bigger even though the harvest this year has been fractionally better than the average over the last five years."

"Rapid population growth has meant the same amount of food has to feed more mouths. So despite a small increase in overall food production, on average there is 13 percent less food per person," Piper explained.

Of the 16 million at risk, approximately two million need immediate food assistance. Piper adds that food security numbers can fluctuate season to season. Nigeria and Senegal recorded the biggest jump in food insecurity numbers.

"Food insecurity in Nigeria is partly to do with the conflict in the north, which has been exacerbated since the government called the state of emergency in May," Piper said.

Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck's actions against the Islamist sect Boko Haram has left hundreds dead and around 10,000 refugees have fled into Niger and Cameroon.

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