By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, Head of Caritas Internationalis Delegation to the UN in Geneva On 02 July 2012, Floriana Polito and I had the pleasure of convening some influential figures in the fight against hunger and poverty. Caritas Internationalis, together with Oxfam, held an important side event focused on human rights in the context of the food crisis in the Sahel region of Africa; it was held at the Palais des Nations in conjunction with the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights.
What is the humanitarian situation in West Africa’s Sahel region? More than 12 million people will face acute food shortages in the Sahel region of West Africa unless early and effective action is taken now to prevent the crisis. People in Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad are already suffering from a lack of food with the ‘lean’ season still to come. In the worst affected areas, people have already started to ration food to one meal a day, sell off cattle or leave their farms for urban centres. We must not wait until there are images of starving children on our TV screens. By acting now we can ensure the food crisis does not deteriorate. What has led to a food crisis in West Africa? Poor rains and drought last year and pest infestation means this year’s harvest will not produce enough food. A spike in regional food prices has left people [...]
“The sound of gunfire woke us up,” said Mr Mahmouda, who fled his village in Mali after it came under attack from rebels. “Although we were not directly threatened, we were scared. We took all we could carry and fled in the direction of Niger,” he told Caritas Niger. Some 120,000 people have been forced out of their homes in Mali as conflict flares in three out of eight provinces. The fighting comes as the Sahel region of West Africa faces a food crisis predicted to leave more than 10 million people hungry this year. A small number of Tuareg-led rebels re-ignited their rebellion last month. Bolstered by fighters and weapons spilling out of last year’s conflict in Libya, the rebels, known as the MNLA, have launched a series of attacks against military outposts. The government, which also faces elections and the food crisis, is struggling to respond. More than 60,000 people [...]