The Challenge of Compounding Crises: Hunger and Malnutrition in the Central Sahel


The West African sub-region known as the Central Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) has experienced sharp spikes in violent extremism, terrorist attacks, and coup d’états over the last decade. The worsening conflict, the mass displacement it has caused, and a new global hunger crisis have created a humanitarian catastrophe in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger this past year. Across the three countries, over 5.3 million people are estimated to be facing crisis levels – or higher – of food insecurity.

In response to increasing levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in the Central Sahel, CRS provides the following recommendations to the U.S. government:

  1. Increase funding and support for humanitarian and development assistance in the Sahel.
    • Funding should be flexible, and whenever possible, come through existing mechanisms.
    • Additional, multi-year funding is required for urban settings.
    • More funding should be directed to local organizations. 
  2. Enhance investments that address root causes of violence, reduce the impact of shocks and stressors, and increase the resilience of vulnerable populations. Investments should include:
    • Additional, multi-year programming with livelihoods integrated across humanitarian and development activities.
    • Social cohesion and peacebuilding integrated into humanitarian and development activities. 
    • Scaling up and enhancing social protection mechanisms to better enable early action. 
    • Strengthening local production of diverse, nutrient-dense food sources using climate-smart approaches and supporting agri-food systems to diversify food supply and decrease reliance on food imports, particularly among smallholder farmers.
    • Increasing investments in market systems monitoring and analyses.
  3. Release its interagency Sahel Strategy to inform these efforts. 

There are sufficient data highlighting the severity of the food and nutrition crisis in the Central Sahel but insufficient attention and action. CRS urges the U.S. government to enact a more robust response to prevent deterioration of food security outcomes.

Published January 2023