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Drought in Gambia as Sahel crisis spreads

Mar 16, 2012, 12:34 PM

As the drought in West Africa’s Sahel region deepens, ActionAid has warned that popular holiday destination The Gambia is also facing severe food shortages as crops have failed.

The anti-poverty agency says that the effects of the drought have been made even worse by rapidly rising food prices, which are 25% higher than last year.

It is estimated that more than 700,000 people – around 42 per cent of the country’s  1.7 million population - are going hungry, and the situation is expected to deteriorate further in the coming weeks and months.

ActionAid’s Country Director Kujejatou Manneh said: “The Gambia is predominantly an agricultural society. With widespread crop failure and food price hikes, the situation will become extremely serious unless emergency measures are put in place immediately.

“Already we are seeing economic migration from rural to urban areas as young people in particular search for paid work so they can send money to support hungry families back home.”

ActionAid is responding to the emergency and will be providing 50,000 people with urgently needed food and drinking water, seed and other farming products to help make the next harvest productive.  It will also help with feed and watering points for livestock. 

In the longer  term, a focus on better irrigation schemes and livelihoods diversification will help people become more resilient to weather related crises such as droughts.

With the next harvest not due until October 2012, ActionAid expects the situation to get much worse, particularly as water for both people and animals become even scarcer as the dry season progresses.

ActionAid has worked with families across The Gambia for nearly 40 years, funding education and health projects and building livelihoods through child sponsorship.

“At a time of crisis, saving lives becomes a priority and the international community needs to scale up its response to the crisis. This is a real emergency,” said Kujejatou Manneh.