From the CFR’s “Democracy in Development” blog.
A massive food crisis is brewing in Africa’s Sahel. Already, some 18 million people in the Sahel region are confronting a severe food shortage. The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe.
Recently, an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group declared its full control of the northern part of the country. This weekend, the group—aping the Taliban—destroyed several sites and part of a particular mosque it considered idolatrous in the historic city of Timbuktu. Mali’s political instability magnifies the effects of food insecurity. The WFP’s work there faces disruption, as does the work of other NGOs and international organizations. Many clinics and schools have been destroyed, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) fears that children will be forced to participate in armed conflict. The influx of Malian refugees to other countries has exacerbated regional food insecurity, not only because of the extra people to feed but also because some Malian refugees bring their livestock (a critical part of their economic livelihoods) with them. As the ICRC notes, 60,000 Malian refugees have settled in northern Burkina Faso, where “the available pastureland does not provide enough food for the approximately 150,000 head of livestock” they brought with them.