by Jude Escribano and Navdha Malhotra
Up to 12 million people in Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso have been affected by severe drought in the Sahel region of West Africa. Arid land makes it difficult, if not impossible, for livestock to graze. Furthermore, increasing food prices are making it difficult for people to buy food.
As the food crisis worsens, HelpAge is monitoring the health and nutrition situation of older people with partners such as Merlin in Chad and Mali. Based on the results of the assessment, we will implement a response programme where the needs are the greatest and most urgent.
Every year is a struggle for survival
HelpAge (through our sister organisation, Age UK) is a memebr of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). The DEC has issued the following statement:
"The DEC is extremely concerned about the growing food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa... Poor rainfall has contributed to a lack of grazing for animals and below average harvests in some areas. This in turn has resulted in unseasonably high market prices for grain, putting staple foods increasingly out of reach for many people.
"Every year is a struggle for survival in the Sahel and many communities have not really recovered from the last food crisis in 2010. In some countries the situation is further complicated by conflict."
The food security situation is expected to continue to deteriorate until August 2012, when the next main harvest is due. Following the collective failure to launch a sufficiently strong pre-emptive response to the 2011 food crisis in East Africa, international concern is mounting about the situation this year in the Sahel.
As humanitarian partners prepare to respond to these crises, HelpAge has produced a series of Data Review and Humanitarian Analysis (DRHA) on ageing. The data serves to:
- highlight the situation of older people in the country
- support the humanitarian community to understand what gaps exist
- ensure inclusion of older people in the planning and implementation of responses.
Frances Stevenson, Head of Emergencies at HelpAge said: "The humanitarian community must ensure its response to the West Africa drought identifies and responds to the needs of all vulnerable groups, including older people.
"The data produced by HelpAge indicates the vulnerability of older people. It should provide a basis for relief agencies to ensure that their needs are effectively integrated into response programmes."
As members of the DEC, Age UK and HelpAge International are closely monitoring the situation and will aim to meet the health and nutritional needs of older people in either Chad or Mali, with support from partners.