Gambia (MNN) ― Mali's political crisis may be making the threat of famine in the Sahel region worse.
Steve Watson, Director of Logistics for Global Aid Network (GAiN USA), says their ministry is coordinating shipments of food and seeds to the area. In one particular location where their teams are working, "There are over 300,000 people who are looking for food. Those are people who live in Gambia, refugees from Senegal, refugees from Guinea Bissau."
Mali can't get to its food reserves, and borders are closed, says Watson, "This past year, over 80% of the crops failed, so there's the huge need for food. But then there's the influx of refugees, which, given the instability in Mali, I wouldn't be surprised to see more refugees."
When Mali's borders closed, food prices went up fast. A news release from Oxfam says 15 million people are at risk in the Sahel region which includes Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia.
Acting early costs less than waiting for the situation to get worse, explains Watson. "We've been able to ship four containers to the region over the last six months. We've sent three containers of food to the Gambia and one to Burkina Faso." However, the scope of the problem is growing larger because "there's a call for more. Right now, in The Gambia alone, they're asking for five more containers."
Funding for the Sahel region is falling behind. Watson says, "There can be a little bit of donor fatigue when you start hearing crisis in East Africa, crisis in West Africa, and then the financial situation the way it is around the world. People are not giving like they have in the past." That means GAiN USA joins the ranks of the G8 countries struggling to keep the donors interested in a relief effort to West Africa.
In partnership with another ministry, GAiN can deliver a balanced, nutritious, and vitamin-packed meal to people facing hunger around the world. Watson says, "If you want to send a meal to a starving person, it comes out to about 10 cents a meal with the amount of meals that we're able to send."
Then, Watson explains, it gets shipped and distributed in-country. "We have a partner in The Gambia who is working directly with government authorities to make sure that food gets to the places that are most in need. It's amazing because this is a non-Christian country. "
GAiN's partner is also bold in sharing the reason they're responding, and that leads to a whole new road of opportunity, Watson adds. "While the Good News is not directly given/tied to the aid, our ministry partner is able to share. It's just been a God-send that he's there and he's got this great network."
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