Successful humanitarian project to prevent starvation
Malnutrition, extreme drought and food shortages are major problems in Mali and Burkina Faso. In 2018 Diakonia’s partner organizations implemented a joint humanitarian project in these two countries to support particularly vulnerable families. The results are promising: for example, illnesses linked to malnutrition have significantly decreased in the affected villages.
“This project has helped more than 1,000 households avoid a starvation situation that could have become catastrophic,” says Mohamed Assaleh, programme manager at Diakonia in Mali.
Very difficult conditions
The situation in Mali and Burkina Faso, which constitute part of the Sahel region, is difficult. It has rained much less than usual in recent years, and the water level is extremely low, which has resulted in poor harvests, higher food prices, and huge food-availability problems. Women and children are particularly vulnerable.
“In addition to supporting 1,000 households, the project has especially supported 100 malnourished children who would definitely not have survived without the flour they benefited from. The children’s mothers also received training in hygiene routines and cooking techniques to make them better equipped if they face such disasters in the future,” Mohamed Assaleh explains.
Harder to cultivate traditional crops
Previously, many people in the Timbuktu region of Mali supported themselves by cultivating wheat and millet, but climate change has made this much more challenging. There is a lack of knowledge of how to adapt crops to the new conditions, which has led to poor harvests and difficulties finding feed for livestock, for example. The population of Mali is also affected by the military conflict in the north, which has had an impact on the entire safety situation in the country.
In 2018 the country was in crisis and had an acute food shortage. This is why Diakonia together with three local partner organizations, ATAD, AFAD and AMSS, conducted a humanitarian project to increase people’s access to food for three months. Families in Mali and Burkina Faso received assistance in the form of money to buy food during the three months of the year in which they have the greatest difficulties supporting themselves: July, August and September.
A 30-percent reduction in illnesses
Households in Burkina Faso have very low incomes, and about 100 children were identified among them who were at risk of malnutrition. These children received targeted nutritional assistance in the form of flour. In Mali, children in the risk zone also received flour, and illnesses linked to malnutrition have now decreased by 30 percent.
But it’s not enough. The situation in the countries remains difficult, and the families need to develop resilience to avoid ending up in the same situation in the future.
“Floods in August and September 2018 totally ruined harvests and pastures belonging to people who live solely on growing crops and rearing livestock in the region. And even though the project has saved lives, the need for food assistance remains substantial in the region,” says Mohamed Assaleh.
Diakonia hopes to launch a new humanitarian project in 2019 focusing on strengthening access to food and clean water in the region and educating people about the link between good hygiene and better health.