November 21, 2014 17:35 UTC

Science & Technology

Aid Workers Seek to Build 'Resilience' in Sahel

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In this Tuesday, May 1, 2012 photo, 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, in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northeIn this Tuesday, May 1, 2012 photo, 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, in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northe
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In this Tuesday, May 1, 2012 photo, 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, in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northe
In this Tuesday, May 1, 2012 photo, 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, in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northe

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report in Special English.
 
In Africa, severe food shortages have affected eighteen million people in nine Sahel countries this year. This was the third severe food crisis in four years in the area bordering the Sahara. How can the Sahel break its cycle of food insecurity? Aid workers are asking that question as this year's emergency eases. David Gressly is the United Nations regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.
 
"If we don't seize the opportunity in two thousand thirteen, there's a good chance that this whole issue will be forgotten until the next drought, and then we'll be asking ourselves the same set of questions."
 
Mr. Gressly says during a crisis, families eat just one or two meals a day, take their children out of school, sell their animals and go into debt. These actions put them at greater risk in a future crisis. In fact, many of the families affected by this year's food crisis had yet to recover from the earlier ones.
 
Aid agencies sent food and emergency assistance. They supplied farmers with drought-resistant seeds, improved fertilizers and medicine for livestock. Aid groups also worked to improve irrigation systems and grain storage. These measures dealt with short-term needs, but David Gressly says the work should not stop when the crisis eases.  
 
"And I think now there's an understanding [of the need for] a very targeted program looking at these eighteen million people affected this year, working with them to find ways so that they don't have to make the kinds of decisions to survive in a crisis of a drought, for example, that compromises their long-term future."
 
Aid groups say they are working to build the "resilience" of communities, to make them stronger during a crisis. David Gressly says this means taking steps like reducing child malnutrition and changing cultural practices that may be harmful.
 
For example, he says there is a practice in many communities across the Sahel to give water to babies under six months of age because of the heat. But the water is often dirty and makes the children sick. This starts a cycle toward severe malnutrition. It can be prevented by feeding babies only breast milk.
 
This year's food crisis followed unpredictable and insufficient rains. High food prices only made the situation worse. David Gressly says aid agencies in Chad have been building dams to store water during the rainy season. This water can later be used to irrigate fields.
 
Al Hassan Cisse from the British aid group Oxfam says building the resilience of poor people also means investing in food reserves and social protections like health care. Aid groups say prevention costs less than treatment.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Shige from: Japan
12/03/2012 1:40 AM
I think building dam is very important. Sufficient water is needed to grow grains. And after cleaning the water, we can drink it as a drinking water.


by: Leo from: Colombia
11/29/2012 3:46 AM
That is very true, is less expensive and more beneficial to prevent than to cure, hopefully they'll be better prepared for the next drought.
VOA, thanks for your contribution, for spreading knowledge, you are doing your part to make of this world a better place!


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
11/28/2012 5:24 AM
This year's drought is extremely severe to have even the U.S. farmers depend on bailout from the government. It cannot be helped for aid groups offering emergent aids to Sahel countries. But for a long perspective, it's true how the style of international aid for developing countries should be to help them become economically independent.

It's sure short-term aid like emergent, temporaly supply of foods, fertilizers and medicne et cetera are not enough. Yet capital investment in for example irrigation systems and dams also might not be almighty because these equipments might not match the local crimate, soil, and cultural conditions. I've heard, eventhough modern machines are equiped, they are sometimes left alone because people cannot handle them.

I agree it's a difficult conduct to aid someone. I suppose moral supports encouraging and educating them would work well for their growing independence as well as, or perhaps more than a material aid.


by: Marcone Moreira from: Brazil
11/27/2012 4:34 PM
Very good! www.tmdturismo.com.br

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