More than 18 million people are currently struggling through a crisis in the
Sahel region of West Africa. The overarching driver of this crisis is not drought,
nor a food deficit. The most vulnerable families are in crisis because they have
no protection against shocks like grain prices doubling. This is the “resilience
deficit”*, rooted in structural causes, neglected for too long, and exacerbated
by exceptionally high food prices.
Current estimates suggest that over one million children will face severe
and life-threatening malnutrition during this crisis. Even in a “non-crisis”
year, an estimated 645,000 children die in the Sahel of largely preventable
and treatable causes, with 226,000 of these deaths being directly linked to
malnutrition. Acute malnutrition affects 10%-14% of children in Senegal, Mali,
Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, and more than 15% of children in Chad.
These rates demonstrate that traditional development policies are failing to
save children in the Sahel from a permanent, large-scale nutrition crisis.
This report, a joint initiative by Save the Children and World Vision, aims to
assess progress, lessons learned, and challenges in promoting “resilience” in
the Sahel, with a particular focus on the well-being of children. The study
demonstrates the need for a massive response by governments and partners
in order to tackle child malnutrition – chronic and acute, together. It offers
evidence-based, tangible recommendations for a comprehensive, child-focused
approach to resilience in the Sahel.
People’s access to food at prices they can afford, and their capacity to absorb
or adapt to new shocks have been severely undermined by the Sahel crises in
2005, 2008 and 2010. The vast majority of the most vulnerable households in
the region have had neither the time, nor the necessary support, to get out of
debt, or restore their normal means of making a living.