One of the top stories of 2012 was the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Sahel Region of West Africa.
Drought, insect infestations and conflict created a food and refugee crisis in the region, putting more than 18 million people at risk. In 2012, Plan stepped into help children and families affected by the Sahel Crisis in Mali, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
The face of the Sahel Crisis
Like other humanitarian disasters, girls are severely affected by the crisis in the Sahel. But the low status of girls makes them even more vulnerable in emergency situations (more about that here and here).
Meet three girls whose lives have been turned upside down:
Fati: Fati (9) fled from Mali with her family when the conflict began. With relief aid failing to reach families who fled to Burkina Faso, the country is doing all it can with the little it has, and locals are helping families as much as they can. Fati has no access to education though, and as the food crisis continues to affect the Sahel, Fati worries that she and her younger brothers will not have enough to eat every day.
Fadimata: Fadimata, (17) fled her village near Timbuktu after it was attacked by the military following the political chaos created during the Malian coup on March 22, 2012. Fadimata reached the Mentao camp for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, where Plan is providing support.
“When they arrived, they started shooting up into the sky. They did that to panic us, to terrorize us. I was afraid. I didn’t know such things were possible. I was at the well, getting water. As soon as I heard the shots, I dropped my buckets, left everything and ran. At that moment, all I thought was that I would be killed. I came here alone. As soon as I heard gunshots, I just ran.”
Madi: Malian refugee Madi (13) has never been to school and used to help her mother with household tasks before she fled from her community when soldiers arrived. She’s also seeking safety at the Mentao refugee camp in Burkina Faso.
“I saw the soldiers arrive. People were running, the women were crying. There was panic. It was the army. They had guns in their hands; they were shooting into the air. I keep asking myself, did I really see this? I thought I would be killed. I ran like everyone else. I ran with my grandfather. I had no idea where my mother and my father were. I left believing my parents were leaving in the same direction. I have contact with someone who says my parents are okay, but I don’t know where they are. They are not in Mali. I am worried about them, wondering if they are okay. I want to see them. What I want (more than anything) is to be reunited with my parents, my family, in tranquility.”
The story in numbers
Plan has three goals as it works to respond to the crisis:
- Feed children through Plan’s food distribution network, school meal initiatives and food voucher programs.
- Save children suffering the effects of malnutrition with health care and specialized nourishment.
- Protect children during migrations that leave them vulnerable to hunger, disease and traffickers.
So far, Plan has…
- Fed more than 2,300 students through school feeding programs.
- Delivered cereal, rice, and cooking oil to more than 19,600 people living in refugee camps.
- Provided 90,000 litres of water per day.
- Trained 270 community volunteers to identify children suffering from malnutrition and get them to a health centre.
- Distributed more than 2,000 school kits.
- Supported more than 1,800 children to attend class by building 6 temporary classrooms.
- Donated 4,000 articles of cold weather clothing to 2,000 refugee children.