After years of unpredictable rains and poor harvests, along with existing intense poverty, 6 million people in the Sahel Region face significant food shortages this year. The UN and Government of Niger have both declared this situation a serious crisis. Mercy Corps teams work in the most at-risk areas, and have expanded programs to Mali, where 3.5 million experience chronic hunger. We help communities deal with effects of drought, soaring food prices, malnutrition and low food levels.
As a result of yearly droughts, floods, and major crop damage from insects, farmers are not able to grow enough food and people don't have enough clean water. In 2011, between 70 and 100 percent of farmers' crops were destroyed. What makes the problem worse is that persistent shortages have forced food prices to skyrocket. Unable to store crops or afford to buy food, families today struggle to eat. Each day, more and more people are going hungry.
Of the 6 million facing food shortages, 1.3 million are at serious risk from hunger and need immediate humanitarian assistance. Our priorities are to distribute emergency food and cash; create cash-for-work jobs for men and women; support 8 nutritional screening centers that help treat malnourished children and distribute high-protein supplements; help farmers keep their animals and crops healthy; and help communities become more resilient to drought and food shortages, now and in the future.
As we help the people of Niger and Mali survive this crisis, we believe it's vital to invest in ways to stop hunger from recurring in years to come. Therefore, we are strengthening communities through expansion of a comprehensive community-based health program to address the causes of malnutrition and improve nutrition. Together, we are also strengthening livelihoods and helping people become more self-sufficient by providing job training, particularly to women and youth.