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Building Resilience In The Sahel

Maryam Sy comforts her 2-year-old son Aliou Seyni Diallo, the youngest of nine, after a neighbor gave him dry couscous to stop him from crying with hunger. (file)

USAID is committing more than $130 million to build resilience in NIger and Burkina Faso over the first two years of this initiative.

The south-western edge of the Sahara Desert, which includes parts of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, is known as the Sahel, an Arabic word for Edge of the Desert. It is an arid, exceptionally fragile ecosystem that, even in a good year, is hard-pressed to produce enough food to support its population. The Sahel suffered food insecurity crises that affected millions of people in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2012. It is a never-ending cycle in the region which cannot be prevented, but can be mitigated.

Building Resilience In The Sahel
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“With high rates of child malnutrition under even the best of circumstances, one poor harvest can push millions into severe risk. And we know that when shocks hit—droughts, floods, locusts—it is inevitably the most vulnerable populations that are the hardest hit, often without the chance to recover before new shocks strike,” said United States Agency for International Development, or USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg, at the launch of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan in early February.

To coincide with this occasion, the United States, through USAID, initiated a new program, “Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced,” or RISE, a five-year effort to build resilience in targeted zones in Niger and Burkina Faso. USAID is committing more than $130 million over the first two years of this initiative.

According to Assistant Administrator Lindborg, the program will help some 1.9 million of the most vulnerable people in those areas a chance to break the cycle of crisis, to escape chronic poverty—and to lessen their need for humanitarian assistance in the future.

At the same time, USAID is committing an additional $85 million in humanitarian assistance to meet acute food insecurity in Mali, Niger, and Chad.

“In the Sahel, with the population anticipated to double by 2050, the challenges become ever greater; the stakes are high and time is not on our side,” said Assistant Administrator Lindborg.

“Both meeting [the] needs [of these populations] and working together to lessen that need at its core are vital elements of any strategy to ensure greater food security and to realizing President Obama’s goal—and our shared global commitment to—end extreme poverty by 2030.”