This week, Mr Holmås has been visiting Niger, one of the drought affected countries in the Sahel Belt south of the Sahara.
“More than 18 million people are at risk of food shortages in this region. As many as one million children under the age of five could be affected by malnutrition. We are therefore increasing our assistance to NOK 185 million this year,” said Mr Holmås.
The drought has led to poor harvests, ruined pasture land and food shortages. The food that is available has become too expensive for most people. This has created an extremely difficult situation for the people of Niger, Mali, Chad, Gambia, Senegal, Cameroon, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre commented, “The food crisis is being exacerbated by the reverberations of conflict in the region. Armed conflict with Tuareg rebels in the northern parts of Mali have caused 320 000 people to flee their homes. In addition, 400 000 migrant workers have fled back home from the conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, and are putting further pressure on limited resources.”
Climate change has increased the frequency of drought in the region, which means that people do not have time to recover between crises. This is also causing a long-term decline in public health.
Earlier this year, Norway provided NOK 145 million to assist the victims of the crisis in the Sahel. The Government has now decided to provide an additional NOK 40 million to help prevent more serious food shortages and avoid a full-scale crisis. This amount includes funding for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
“This is a tragic situation, especially for the youngest children. It is vital that the international community takes the crisis seriously, and responds accordingly,” said Mr Holmås.