Responding to Sahel food shortages in 1996/7: What went wrong?
MetadataShow full item record
A particularly difficult hungry season in Chad, Mauritania and Niger has meant considerable food shortages and depleted cereal reserves despite the fact that early warning systems were in place and indicated the gravity of the situation in advance of the November 1996 harvest. The purpose of early warning is to allow households to implement their own strategies for dealing with shortage, and to give aid agencies the information they need in order to pre-empt and mitigate a disaster. The lesson from the Sahel is that co-ordinated and effective response does not necessarily follow early warning. One of the chief problems faced is that of communication of information. The size of the region covered meant that there were inconsistent reports on the scale or impact of the drought, and the slow onset of drought means that it is of little interest to the media. Once relevant information has been gathered there are political obstacles such as the orientation of donor and recipient countries development plans which may be interrupted by inefficient emergency food provision. Food security is an internal political issue, and a normal harvest at national level does not guarantee the security of all households; similarly, national level assessments may not be adequate monitoring mechanisms. The report concludes with an upbeat message of hope that there is no reason for loss of life due to food shortages resulting from drought, and that consensus amongst donors is an important part of ensuring food security.