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USAID Commits New Funds to Help Sahel Nations Build Resilience

By Kathryn McConnell | Staff Writer | 04 February 2014
Woman giving girl a vaccination in the arm (USAID)

A health care worker in Burkina Faso administers a vaccine to a young girl. Improving health services is a focus of a new initiative to help countries in the Sahel build resilience to shocks.

Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated $130 million to help the Sahel nations of Burkina Faso and Niger build resilience to repeated shocks and stay on their development paths.

The combined humanitarian aid and development commitment is for the first two years of a five-year effort to help families and communities “get ahead of the next shock,” said USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg in introducing the Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) initiative February 3 at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

The announcement came in conjunction with the United Nations’ launch of a three-year regional response plan to provide aid to millions of people in nine countries in the Sahel region of Africa. The plan seeks to mobilize an initial $2 billion from international donors in 2014.

“We know that when shocks hit — droughts, floods, locusts — it is inevitably the most vulnerable populations that are the hardest hit, often without the chance to recover before new shocks strike,” Lindborg said. “The outcome is a cycle of crisis that millions cannot escape, resulting in great hardship, great costs and the loss of hard-won development gains.”

In a press release, USAID said the funds will be used to help Burkina Faso and Niger strengthen their governments, improve health and education, and increase recipients’ sustainable incomes. In all, RISE will help an estimated 1.9 million beneficiaries “move from vulnerability to viability, lessening their need for humanitarian assistance in the future,” USAID said.

The five-year goals for Burkina Faso and Niger include reducing acute malnutrition from near 15 percent to below 10 percent and reducing family poverty by 20 percent. They include increasing income from raising sheep, goats, poultry and cowpeas 50 percent, and reducing the number of people needing humanitarian aid by several thousand, according to USAID.

Lindborg also announced an additional $85 million in USAID humanitarian aid for about 1 million people in Mali, Niger and Chad to address immediate food shortages.

The Sahel is an arid zone stretching across the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa. It has a history of recurrent drought and scattered conflict that has driven the same vulnerable communities into crisis year after year, USAID said.

In 2012, the region experienced its third harsh drought in a decade, making more than 18 million people food-insecure, USAID said. That year, USAID brought together humanitarian and development personnel to design a joint strategy to build resilience in the region.

“Building resilience — including more inclusive, accountable governance and stronger livelihoods — is vital to help people of the region cope with the next shock, break out of chronic poverty and achieve inclusive economic growth,” USAID said.

The nine countries targeted by the United Nations plan are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

Group of women (USAID)

In Niger, USAID promotes cultivation of the leaves of the hardy, vitamin-packed moringa tree, which help build resilience.