It’s been a recurrent news item over the last few months, one which doesn’t quite garner attention like a devastating earthquake or a brutal civil war, but we’ve all been reading about it: there is a food crisis in the Sahel region which is threatening nearly 19 million people. This isn’t the first time that a food crisis hits the region – there have been severe droughts in parts of the Sahel in 2005 and 2010. However, this particular crisis is touching the entire region, from Chad extending west to the Atlantic Ocean, affecting millions. Additionally, the crisis in Mali, which has displaced hundreds of thousands, has compounded the situation. Not only are refugees and displaced people more vulnerable, but host communities also feel the effects, through higher food prices and fewer available resources. Other contributing factors include droughts and bad harvests, a locust invasion and protracted systemic weaknesses which make the Sahel region particularly vulnerable to food shocks.

This most recent crisis, however, has barely registered internationally, and, across the board, fundraising goals set by relief organizations have fallen far short. Overall, a little over 50% of the $1.6 billion consolidated appeal has been funded. IRIN reports that the “UNHCR has received only 20 percent of the US$153.7 million it asked for to help more than 380,000 Malians who have fled to the neighbouring countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, Guinea and Togo.” Oxfam, for its part, revealed a $20 million shortfall with regards to their funding target. In a press release, Plan International noted that the organization appealed for US$14.7 million of which $7.2 million have been committed by donors.

It’s in this context that the government of Canada announced the creation of the Sahel Crisis Matching Fund, which will match “every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities.” The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will “allocate these funds to established Canadian and international humanitarian organizations for humanitarian assistance efforts that benefit the people most affected by the crisis.” Canada has agreed to make an initial $10 million contribution to help alleviate the pressure felt by aid organizations, and will match donations dollar-for-dollar between August 7 and September 30 2012.

For more information about the Sahel Food Crisis, the World Food Program’s website has a special dedicated section. Another fantastic resource for data visualization nerds is sahelresponse.org. Below is an Oxfam infographic showing the dynamics of the Sahel food crisis at a glance:

Photo credit: Oxfam

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