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The humanitarian crisis in West Africa

Edward Cody’s June 8 story, “In Mali, an Islamist extremist haven takes shape,” illustrated the worrying potential consequences of political instability in Mali. What’s missing, however, is how these consequences are seriously hampering the response to a dire humanitarian situation.

In Mali, 4.6 million people are at risk of hunger, 175,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition and nearly 170,000 people are displaced from their homes, with another 170,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries. The food crisis is part of an emergency in the Sahel region of West Africa, where more than 18 million people across seven countries face starvation, thanks to a drought and poor harvest.

Mr. Cody’s story rightly pointed out the dangerous national security risks in northern Mali, but chronic poverty and hunger are chief among the underlying conditions that led to this situation. The political and security situation must be addressed alongside the equally urgent humanitarian need.

The United States has committed more than $308 million to aid the Sahel region, but more than $1.5 billion is needed to do the job right. Governments and humanitarian aid actors will meet Monday in Brussels to discuss the Sahel, including steps to address long-term solutions. They should not waste this opportunity. 

Eric Munoz, Washington

The writer is a senior agriculture policy adviser with Oxfam America.

 

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