The Sahel has been briefly in the headlines these past few months because of the French intervention in Mali. But before there was a political crisis in Mali there was a region-wide humanitarian crisis. In many ways, the humanitarian crisis precipitated the political conflict that has befell Mali. To help raise awareness about this other side the Sahel crisis, musicians David Guetta and Usher just contributed this song to the UN’s humanitarian efforts. The food crisis in the Sahel stems from successive poor harvests and flooding. Crops were decimated and families must rely on outside assistance until the harvests return. The way that the international community funds humanitarian assistance is by asking wealthier countries to support specific humanitarian appeals. Sometimes, the countries are in the news and the appeals are relatively well funded (think Haiti or Syria). But when places like Niger, Chad, and Mauritania need support, it is much harder to rouse the donors. These countries are politically, economically, and geographically very off the radar. That’s where the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) comes in. This is a relatively new effort from the United Nations to ensure humanitarian relief reaches neglected emergencies. It also provides for the rapid response when an unepected crisis, like an earthquake, hits. Last year, CERF distributed over $470 million to unexpected emergencies and neglected crises around the world. CERF is mostly funded by countries, but individuals can contribute as well. The UN Foundation takes in individuals’ donations to CERF. You can go here to contribute directly to neglected humanitarian emergencies like the crisis in the Sahel.