WHD 2013

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Resilience in simple terms/ La résilience en termes simples


 What does resilience mean for Amadou & Moussa? 


By Esther Huerta García, Communication & Social Media Officer - OCHA Sahel

These young boys below might not have participated in the global debate around resilience in the Sahel region. Still, they know very well what it means to live in a family whose resilience has been completely eroded.

Children playing in Mopti- CREDIT: ECHO

Losing resilience -  in very simple terms

Amadou and Moussa live in Mali and are among the generation of children that have missed a whole year of school in 2012 due to the food crisis.

Their parents, after this year´s drought, were forced to reduce the quantity and quality of food they could give to their children.  When food is not sufficient, this is the first strategy many households follow to adapt to this new situation. After that, as the crisis continued, the family was forced to sell their livestock and take out a loan. They had nothing left.

These boys dropped out of school to help their family. They performed manual tasks like collecting firewood and selling mangos for other traders to earn a little money.

Their family, thanks to humanitarian partners, was able to plant crops. However, clashes between sedentary farmers and pastoralists across the region forced Amadou, Moussa and family to move from their home.  To make matters worse, exceptional heavy rains experienced in the days that followed caused severe flooding, creating favourable conditions for disease outbreaks.  Young Moussa began suffering strong diarrhoea and showed the first signs of malnutrition.

The two brothers are now much more vulnerable and becoming desperate. They are also very susceptible to the temptation to join small radical groups they hear are recruiting young children like them for a better future in the country.

The hope of their family lies now in finding ways to overcome current and future challenges, such as new droughts, floods, displacement and conflicts.

Why invest in resilience?

If the rains are good next year, Amadou & Moussa´s family will survive, but they will have lost their livelihoods: they won´t have their animals, nor their working tools any more. In addition to this, they will probably still be paying back their loan, struggling to make ends meet, and will no longer have any savings. They will still have their fields, but if there is another drought or extreme heavy rains, they can´t guarantee they will be able to profit from a harvest.

In addition, one of these two brothers might still die from malnutrition, since this is one of the consequences of sliding into extreme poverty. This disease affects, first of all, the most vulnerable people in the Sahel region: children under 5 and pregnant women.

Malnutrition, when not leading to death, has a direct impact in the capacity of children to learn with irreversible long-term effects for their whole life. If children lose their learning capacity and the ability to hold good jobs in the future, this will have a negative impact on people´s productivity. Without good productivity, the economy of the country will be strongly affected.

Building resilience means investing in new tools and strategies for the people in the Sahel to prepare and be ready to respond to future crises, focusing in the most vulnerable households and protecting their livelihoods.


  1. This situation of losing resilience is also happening in many other continents in the world. Experience shows that countries too dependent on others loose their own capacities and resiliency. It´s like a small child. If you give him everything done, he will never have the opportunity to build resilience. Families like Moussa´s should be the "brains" to build the strategies on resilience. I think that all the strategies should be revised from the source. Otherwise Moussa´s situation will be repeated forever.