The serious drought problems facing the Sahel region of West Africa, which covers eight countries, were the subject of a two-day conference held in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.
The serious drought problems facing the Sahel region of West Africa, which covers eight countries, were the subject of a two-day conference held in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Experts say that thousands of people could die of starvation unless international food relief comes soon. Poor and irregular rains last year in the region have led to renewed drought playing havoc with crops. The Sahel belt extends from the Cape Verde Islands on the Atlantic coast to Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia, and through Mali, Niger, Upper Volta to Chad. Cases of famine are already being reported deep in Northern Sahel where poor transport is making things worse. The Dakar conference was a follow-up to a summit meeting of Heads of State of West African countries in December in Banjul, the capital of Gambia.
SYNOPSIS: The UNESCO building in Daker was the venue for the conference. It was attended by members of the inter-state committee for drought control as well as senior officials from various international bodies.
Mr. Mamadou Diop of Senegal, who is chairman of the Sahel group, was among speakers on the first day.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, crop estimates are almost as low as during the drought from 1972 to 1974 that laid a belt of famine across the region. Relief workers, however, point out that the famine of the early 1970s followed successive years of poor rainfall and accumulative drought that killed livestock and wipeout grain stockpiles.
Some 30 million people living in the region were hit by the drought in the early 1970s, causing starvation and migration to cities.
Several foreign government and international organisations then sent food supplies to the region. Food relief needed now to prevent starvation is estimated by officials, to total about 700,000 tonnes of grain. The Cape Verde Islands have been the worst hit area. No rain fell during the rainy season last year, drastically worsening the existing food-supply problem.