As a result of the drought, families are leaving their villages in search of food and pasture. WFP / Daouda Guirou
A full-scale food and nutrition crisis is looming in Mali following significant crop and pastures shortages. Recent clashes between the Malian army and armed combatants in the north of the country have also displaced tens of thousands of people.
Anticipation of lean season due to looming food crises
The food situation in Mali has been worsening since November 2011 when significant food production deficits resulted after irregular and limited rainfall. Grain production has fallen by 41% compared to last year. In a country where an overwhelming majority of the population relies on rain-fed agriculture as their main source of food and income, such a deficit can have serious consequences for the estimated 3.5 million people living in food insecure regions.
The populations most affected by this significant drop in crop production are poor households in Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao regions. Some households are already resorting to negative coping mechanisms: migrating, selling livestock and reducing their number of daily meals. These copings strategies are characteristic of the lean season, which usually starts in June.
Alarming nutritional situation
Even at the best of times, malnutrition levels are high in Mali. In July 2011, a national nutrition survey showed that the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among children 6 months to 5 years old was 10.8% with critical levels in the regions of Gao (14.1%) and Timbuktu (15.4%). Currently, 1 out of 10 children are suffering from malnutrition with 1.5% of the cases severe.
Aggravating factor: high food prices
Food prices rose throughout 2011 and remained high during the harvest period, a time when prices generally decline. For example, millet prices in the capital of Bamako in early February 2012 were 69% higher than the previous year – near-record levels.
This year, the lean season will likely further exacerbate food prices as many households are depleting their food reserves faster than usual and will need to purchase food earlier in the markets. In addition, the recent conflicts in Mali have reduced some households’ access to markets in some localities and could aggravate food shortages.
WFP scaled up operation to provide food assistance to more than 1 million people
WFP launched an emergency operation in February to cover the food needs of more than 1 million vulnerable people affected by the drought in Mali until December 2012. WFP's emergency operation includes general food distributions for vulnerable households, nutrition support to malnourished children, pregnant and nursing women, complementary rations for children in the school meal programme, and food and cash for work activities to help communities rebuild their assets.