One voice for the Sahel: Communities, UN Agencies, NGOs & other partners
working together for a response to the Sahel crisis/ Une voix pour le Sahel: Communautés, agences des NU, ONGs et partenaires travaillant ensemble pour une réponse à la crise du Sahel
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Little Boy Plays Again As WFP Works To Rebuild Lives In Northern Mali
By World Food Program
After three weeks of nutritious food, Souleymane's health
improved. Credit: WFP / Daouda Guirou
As displaced people and refugees start to voluntarily return to northern Mali, the World Food Programme is scaling up its operations to help rebuild livelihoods while also responding to immediate food and nutritional needs. Saouda Salihou, who returned to Gao with her young family, explains why this assistance is vital.
GAO - Sitting in front of her straw hut, Saouda Salihou proudly watches her two-year-old son Souleymane as he plays with his ‘toy cars’ – two tin cans attached to a length of rope. The toddler mischievously teases his older brother as he plays. Salihou, 27, can hardly believe this joyful, healthy child is the same boy she brought to a health clinic just three weeks ago.
During that visit to Gao’s health centre, Souleymane was diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition. Nurses had weighed him and measured his mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) - a quick method to assess nutritional status.
Salihou was given Plumpy’Sup, a ready-to-use nutritional supplement delivered to health centres in Gao by WFP, in partnership with Action Against Hunger.
“After I started giving the product to my child, he quickly gained weight,” said Salihou. “The following week, I was amongst the first people to arrive at the health centre for my child’s medical appointment."
These weekly appointments allow health agents to monitor vulnerable children’s nutritional status. Mothers also receive information on nutrition, and are given cooking demonstrations, using local products like peanuts, millet and maize.
Salihou attended many of these cookery classes, but said she often did not have enough money to cook the nutritious meals she was shown.
She is not alone. In northern Mali, three out of four households are food insecure and heavily reliant on food assistance, according to the results of a joint survey carried out by WFP and the government of Mali in September this year.
Salihou returned to Gao in mid-October after spending around 18 months in the capital Bamako following her family’s flight from the conflict that gripped northern Mali. But her husband was unable to return to Gao with her as they could not afford the transport fees.
He sends a little money to the family, and Salihou uses this to buy and resell condiments in Gao market. But the little she earns is never enough.
This is why WFP’s school meals programme in Gao is so important. One of the reasons Salihou returned was to send her children to school in their home region.
Her 10-year-old daughter Alima is now enrolled, and was delighted to rediscover her old friends in the classroom. She also enjoys a hot meal of enriched porridge every morning and another hot meal at midday.
“I have struggled to feed my children since I returned and it’s a real relief for me that Alima is getting food at school. She is also very motivated to go to school,” said Salihou.
WFP provides school meals to around 120,000 children in 576 schools in northern Mali. As more schools reopen, WFP is expanding this programme. WFP is also extending its malnutrition prevention and treatment in areas where health centres have started to function again.
“WFP is scaling up its operations and requires more funding,” said Sally Haydock, WFP’s Representative in Mali.
“The drought and subsequent food crisis in 2012, combined with the protracted security crisis have made it very difficult for the most vulnerable people to rebuild their lives. They will require food assistance throughout 2013 and into 2014,” she said.
Prévenir la malnutrition infantile au Mali avec des distributions de compléments alimentaires
Du 28 octobre au 4 novembre 2013, les équipes de Alima et de son partenaire au Mali, l’Alliance Médicale Contre le Paludisme (AMCP), ont réalisé la première distribution d’Aliments Supplémentaires Prêts à l’Emploi (ASPE) dans le district de Kangaba en partenariat avec les autorités sanitaires locales de la région de Koulikouro. Au total, 4439 enfants ont ainsi reçu une ration de 4 pots de Plumpy’doz.
Les mamans reçoivent les conseils d’utilisation et de conservation.
Le plumpy’doz est une pâte constituée de lait en poudre et d’arachides, c’est un complément alimentaire, dont la prise quotidienne permet de satisfaire les besoins des enfants de 6 à 36 mois en micronutriments essentiels. Il a été conçu pour réduire l’incidence de la malnutrition dans des pays où l’accès à une alimentation est monotone et ne satisfait pas les besoins nutritionnels spécifiques de cette tranche d’âge. L’utilisation de suppléments nutritionnels permet une réduction de la malnutrition chronique et a un réel impact sur la diminution de la malnutrition aigüe globale.
« Lors de cette distribution, nous avons ciblés les enfants sains âgés de 06 à 23 mois car après la phase de l’allaitement maternel, cette tranche d’âge est la plus vulnérable en termes de mortalité et de retard de développement » commente Ouologuem Sekou, le responsable du projet Alima/AMCP dans le district. Dans cette zone, les enfants souffrent également du paludisme ; ils vont cesser de s’alimenter correctement pendant deux à trois jours, ce qui les rend encore plus vulnérables aux maladies. A l’inverse, la dénutrition les expose à des risques accrus de maladies. La prévention de la malnutrition dans sa globalité est donc essentielle pour réduire la mortalité infantile liée aux pathologies courantes comme les diarrhées et infections respiratoires.
Une distribution de Plumpy’doz préparée et menée avec les acteurs de santé locaux
En amont de la distribution, le personnel des centres de santé et du district ont été formés et associés aux campagnes de sensibilisation à travers l’identification et l’encadrement des agents de santé et relais communautaires pour mener des opérations de dépistage au porte à porte. Les enfants atteint de malnutrition ont été référés vers le centre de santé le plus proche pour une prise en charge appropriée par Alima/AMCP et l’ONG Afasso.
L’ensemble des accompagnants des enfants a été informé des dates de distribution du plumpy’doz et ont bénéficié de recommandations sur l’alimentation des jeunes enfants. Des messages de sensibilisation en langue locale (le malinké) ont également été diffusés à travers les radios locales. Malgré les difficultés d’accès de la zone découpée par la rive droite du fleuve Niger, en huit jours, 17 756 pots de Plumpy’doz ont été distribués.
« Ma petite sœur Nassira n’a pas encore 2 ans », nous explique Lala Traoré, âgée de 18 ans, lors de la distribution dans le Centre de Santé Communautaire de Habala Dougou Kenieba. « Tous les jours, elle mange du riz et d’autres aliments selon ce que la famille peut trouver. Je ne sais pas ce qu’est la malnutrition, mais j’ai bien compris que ma petite sœur devait prendre 3 cuillères à soupe des pots reçus entre les repas pour rester en bonne santé ».
La distribution d’ASPE cible au total 6958 enfants dans 189 villages du district de Kangaba. Appuyée par l’UNICEF, elle s’inscrit dans le cadre du programme de réduction de la mortalité infantile de la région de Koulikoro de Alima/AMCP au sud Mali. Les équipes de Alima/AMCP envisagent d’étendre cette activité à 5 autres districts de la région de Koulikouro.
By the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
From 28-29 November, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel (RHC) is convening governments, Humanitarian and Resident Coordinators, Cluster Coordinators, Regional Directors, NGOs, Donors, and Chairs of Regional Sector Working Groups in a workshop to plan the humanitarian response for the Sahel for next three years. Participants to the workshop will finalize the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) in the Sahel and outline the Strategic Response Plan (SRP) for 2014-2016. Objectives of the workshop are three-fold: (1) to reach a shared understanding of humanitarian needs in the region; (2) to identify shared strategic objectives and indicators for a 3-year regional response strategy for the Sahel; and (3) to agree on procedures and timelines for strategic response strategies.
The HNO and SRP processes replace the traditional humanitarian appeals process, known as the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP). The regional humanitarian Sahel Strategy for 2014-2016 will be launched at a high-level event in early February 2014.
A strong partnership for a more effective humanitarian action in West Africa and Central
By the Regional Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, West and Central Africa (OCHA ROWCA)
On 2-3 October, OCHA ROWCA hosted a Humanitarian Policy Conference in Dakar. It brought members of the humanitarian community, academic institutions, civil society and the private sector to think and to work together for a more efficient humanitarian programming in the region. "We need to look at how to work better and smarter to break the cycle of vulnerability and crises," said Robert Piper, United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.
During the conference participants made an overview of the humanitarian situation, vulnerability and risk management in the region. Discussions covered the future of humanitarian interventions with a focus on new partnerships, innovation and how to provide a much more effective response to the needs of vulnerable populations. "We need a new toolbox. We need to build on what we have, but we also need innovation and new tools, "said Mr. Piper.
The forum was organized in perparation of the World Humanitarian Summit scheduled in 2016. This summit will map out a new humanitarian approach that is more effective and inclusive, and more representative of the needs and challenges of our rapidly changing world. Currently, several consultations are being conducted to identify humanitarian priorities for each region.
Niger Invests in Early Childhood through Social Safety Nets
By The World Bank
Malnutrition is a torment that Rabi, a Nigerien mother, struggles with daily. Rabi lives in the village of Katami, in the southern Niger department of Dosso, one of the poorest regions in the country. About 20 years old, Rabi raises her five children, as well as an orphaned niece, by herself. Her husband left the village five years ago in search of a better life, leaving the young woman to feed the household on her own.
In Niger, an immense Sahelian country where the fertility rate (7.6 children per woman) is among the highest in the world and where drought strikes with alarming frequency, more than one-third of children under five years of age are underweight. And even when the harvest is good, an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of Nigeriens struggle to feed their families.
In an effort to combat this misery, Nigerien authorities decided to tackle the causes of chronic food insecurity. In 2011, with support from the World Bank, the government began to establish a system of social safety nets targeting the most vulnerable households, and women in particular, in the five poorest regions in the country: Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabery, Zinder and Dosso.
Rabi is among 114 beneficiaries in the village of Katami alone. For almost a year she has been receiving monthly cash transfers of CFAF 10,000 (approximately US$20), which she will continue to collect for 24 consecutive months. “I use this money to buy food and clothes, but also soap and shoes for the children,” Rabi states.
“What’s new in the social safety net program is that we’re not content to just give out money to beneficiaries; this program includes measures meant to bring about behavioral changes, not only among beneficiaries, but also across the community,” notes Carlo del Ninno, a World Bank economist and task team leader. “It is about long-term investment in human capital. The program’s goal is to help the most impoverished households meet their needs, avoid having to sell their assets when crises hit, and improve the odds that the children will emerge from poverty in the future,” he adds.
Promoting Early Childhood Development
To increase the impact of these cash transfers, the World Bank and UNICEF have joined forces to establish accompanying measures that build community awareness of the need to adopt better parenting practices and, in particular, to encourage children’s nutrition and development. In addition to collecting her small monthly stipend, Rabi will participate in 18 months of training activities (led by local NGOs and community educators). These sessions, based partly on UNICEF’s “Essential Family Practices” modules, explain the advantages of practices such as breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of the child’s life, adding nutritious foods to the diet and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets, as well as the importance of stimulating young children through language and play.
“The innovative aspect of the accompanying measures is that they aim to give parents the maximum tools necessary to support their children’s development from a young age,” explains Oumar Barry, assistant professor of psychology at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, and the creator of the technical guide for the accompanying measures component.
Village assemblies, which are held once a month, target the entire community. Monthly group meetings and home visits are also organized for the women who take part in the program, in order to reinforce the messages. “Going into a community and asking outright that they change their behavior overnight is quite challenging and requires a lot of patience,” acknowledges Oumou Amadou Assane, regional supervisor for the accompanying measures for the Niger government’s Social Safety Net Department.
“The inclusion of such a parenting education program is an innovation that simultaneously helps strengthen the impact of cash transfers and expands the scope of early childhood development programs,” notes Patrick Premand, a World Bank economist. “The effectiveness of parenting training programs has been demonstrated in other low-income countries, but the Niger project also includes an impact evaluation that will provide scientific evidence about the extent to which the program improves children’s nutrition and development.”
Bringing About Lasting Change
Guido Comale, the UNICEF representative in Niger, welcomes the collaboration between the World Bank, UNICEF, and the government of Niger. In his view, linking cash transfers with behavioral changes is critical to lifting the most vulnerable households out of extreme poverty. “You cannot ask people to wash their hands with soap if they don’t have the money to buy soap. You cannot hope to change social norms in the long term without also creating economic opportunities for the villagers,” explains Guido Comale.
Thanks to this income, Rabi can even begin saving and preparing for the future. With a group of 10 other villagers, she participates in a tontine, a type of revolving saving group that is widespread throughout West Africa. Every month, she saves some of her cash transfers into a common pot. One by one, each woman will receive an interest-free loan allowing her to invest in a productive activity.
With a budget of US$70 million financed by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, the program will continue until 2017: Some 80,000 households will receive these cash transfers and 200,000 households will benefit from the accompanying measures. In total, more than half a million children will be reached.
“I see a very strong connection between the cash transfers and the accompanying measures. These provisions allow us to envision a future, perhaps by 2030 to 2040, filled with very bright young people,” says an enthusiastic Ali Mory Maidoka, the national coordinator of the Social Safety Net Department in Niger’s Office of the Prime Minister.
The project is implemented by the Social Safety Net Department, Office of the Prime Minister, Republic of Niger, with technical and financial support from the World Bank. The accompanying measures are implemented in collaboration with UNICEF, whose “Essential Family Practices” modules serve as the basis for parenting education activities. Development of the technical manual for the accompanying measures benefits from the support of the Early Learning Partnership (ELP) and the Children’s Investment Fund (CIFF). The impact evaluation of the project is supported by the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF).
Change Through Cowpeas: In Mali, WFP Empowers Women Farmers
By World Food Program (WFP)
As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) uses its procurement needs to boost agriculture indeveloping nations through its Purchase for Progress (P4P) programmes. In the village of Logo in Mali, WFP and its partners have helped women farmers improve yields in the fields, while also enriching their children’s diets.
LOGO – On a sandy plain below Mali’s majestic Bandiagara cliffs, Awa Tessougué describes how she and a group of women farmers reshaped agriculture in their village, putting money in their pockets and improving their children’s nutrition in the process.
“In the beginning, my husband was sceptical about the project. Now, not only has he given me a larger plot of land so that I can grow more niebe (cowpea), but he also allows me to sell the family’s millet surplus to WFP,” she said.
Traditionally women in this region were denied access to land unless their husbands, who tended to cultivate millet for use in the home, consented. Some women were given tiny plots of land to grow crops for sale to cover some household expenses.
Awa Tessougué was among a small group of women whose husbands or male relatives gave them small parcels of land on which they grew niebe, a type of cowpea that is rich in protein, for sale in local markets.
WFP, through its P4P initiative, recognised the challenges facing these women as they attempted to move from subsistence farming to larger scale production of crops for sale, and started to work with them in 2009.
Acting with partners, including Catholic Relief Services and the Government of Mali’s local agricultural division, WFP taught the women how to increase production and also provided more resilient and high-yielding niebe seeds.
Thanks to these efforts, the women of Logo steadily increased their sales of surplus niebe, from one metric ton in 2011 (valued at approximately US$700) to 14 metric tons (with an approximate value of US$13,500) in 2013.
Yapè Tessougué, president of the Logo women farmers’ organization, says the village chief, who once fiercely opposed the project,is now very supportive.
“He has given 200 hectares of farming land to our organisation for niebe and millet production. He also offered a portion a land on which WFP built a warehouse to store our stocks,” she said. Awa Tessougué says that she can now pay her four children’s school fees, and is not dependent on her husband for all her needs.
“I even give my children a small amount of money to buy snacks during their break (at school) and I’ve noticed that they are now more motivated to go to school,” she said. WFP and its partners have also educated the women of Logo on the benefits of consuming the nutrient- and protein-rich niebe, which in the past was almost exclusively grown for sale.
Today, more and more women are using niebe in their own homes, and they say this has helped reduce child malnutrition rates in the village. “My children are less often ill and look healthier since they started eating more niebe,” said Binta Dramé, another farmer and mother-of-six. “The P4P project in Mali is very holistic as it brings together key aspects of development, such as nutrition, capacity building and gender empowerment,” said Ken Davies, the Global P4P Coordinator after he visited Logo in late September.
“While WFP is currently mainstreaming the best aspects of P4P into its overall Country Programme in Mali, I am glad to see the strong engagement from the Government at all levels”.
Sound water management key to building resilience in Africa’s Sahel
Agricultural potential waiting to be unlocked – greater attention and investment needed
Sound water management holds the key to building resilience in Africa's Sahel and can free rural communities from the vicious cycle of weather-related food security crises that have plagued the region over recent years, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at a high level meeting on resilience in the Sahel, focusing on irrigation and water management, with participants from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.
With both drought and flooding posing recurring challenges to the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists, "water is often a problem in the Sahel, whether too much or too little. And the poorest and most vulnerable are the most affected," he noted.
A demanding region, with potential
Owing to its often harsh agro-climatic and environmental conditions, the Sahel is one of the most vulnerable regions of the world.
Still, agriculture is the most important economic activity in the Sahel. Local economies and livelihoods in the Sahelian countries depend heavily on soil, water and vegetation, but the state of these resources has been steadily deteriorating as a result of expanding human settlement, erosion and demand for food, fodder, fuelwood and water.
Yet agriculture in the region - put on a path to resilience - holds great potential, Graziano da Silva argued.
While the Sahel is characterized by low and erratic annual precipitation, with irregular short rainy seasons, its renewable water resources put regional supplies above the standard water scarcity limit of 1,000 m3/yr per capita. Indeed, with the notable exception of Burkina Faso, there is no aggregate physical water scarcity in the Sahel.
"The region's agriculture potential, when properly mobilized, could easily go beyond local sales and serve regional and even international markets," said Graziano da Silva.
But to unlock this potential, more effective, sustainable and integrated management of water resources for agricultural productivity and rural development is necessary.
The FAO chief urged governments, development partners, academia, civil society and private sector participants at the Dakar meeting to be creative and uncompromising in their search for solutions.
"We have the tools to transform the vulnerable communities of the Sahel into much stronger and more resilient communities, and we cannot wait anymore for the next drought or the next flood," he said.
Investments in small-scale water harvesting and water storage have a tremendous impact on rural families, he said.
Flexible irrigation systems giving farmers better control over water can significantly enhance their incomes.
At the same time, more investment in medium to large-scale irrigation systems through effective partnerships between public and private sectors is needed, according to Graziano da Silva.
The event in Dakar was second of two back-to-back high-level meetings on boosting rural resilience in the Sahel organized by the World Bank, the Comité permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS) and the governments of Mauritania and Senegal, with the participation also of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).
The first meeting, focused on the needs of Sahelian pastoral communities, took place in Nouakchott, Mauritania, on 29 October.