This week, urgently needed food – 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers – will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel.

Due to poor harvests, high food prices, and a number of conflicts in the region, a dire humanitarian situation is looming for chronically vulnerable populations across the Sahel region of western Africa.

The food we are shipping this week should arrive by late April, just four to five weeks from now. USAID’s speedy contribution complements efforts of the UN World Food Program and other agencies to procure food for the hungry regionally. Because markets in the Sahel are currently stretched to meet the demand for food, internationally sourced assistance is vital to ensure that food prices don’t rise even higher. With 7 to 12 million people in need of assistance, time is of the essence, particularly with the next rainy season to begin in June, when roads will be impassable and populations will be difficult to reach.

This sorghum is destined to feed individuals in two areas of Chad: children and moderately malnourished mothers affected by the drought in the western and central Sahelian regions of Chad, and in eastern Chad Sudanese refugees – mainly pregnant and nursing women and malnourished children – as well as internally displaced people, returnees, and school children in eastern Chad. USAID is providing additional food aid and emergency cash resources to support both UN agencies and other organizations working across the Sahel to combat the effects of drought and high food prices.

Food aid is just one aspect of the overall USAID response to the crisis in the Sahel. USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities. In addition to providing life-saving assistance, these efforts aim to alleviate poverty and build community resilience to withstand future shocks. With an announcement yesterday of an additional $120 million in emergency assistance, the U.S. government is providing nearly $200 million in humanitarian assistance this fiscal year to the Sahel region.