This page was archived on October 2020.


Humanitarian relief

74 - Drought in the Sahel

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 15/20

The overall European response to the Sahel drought was significant and played an important part in averting mass fatalities.

In late 2011, it became clear that drought in the Sahel threatened to create widespread food shortages, with the potential to affect nearly 20 million people in the region in 2012. This humanitarian crisis was compounded by the implosion of Mali in March 2012 (see component 77). But a concerted humanitarian response meant that a major disaster was averted, in part thanks to prompt EU action.

The European Commission’s humanitarian arm, the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), reacted quickly to the crisis with initial aid in late 2011. Of over €700 million spent on the food crisis throughout the year, nearly €350 million came from the European Commission. The US was the next biggest donor, while EU member states gave nearly €100 million. These included some EU member states, including the UK and the Netherlands, that had limited experience of supporting projects in the region. Germany also moved quickly to respond to the crisis. By contrast, some southern member states, which arguably have the greatest direct interest in events in the Sahel, were unable to make large-scale contributions. For example, Italy pledged €2.5 million for food relief, in contrast to €14 million of aid from the Netherlands, and Portugal was not able to give any aid to the region.

These overall figures do not reflect how well funds are used, but the UN and its partners generally moved quickly in the Sahel throughout 2012. The success of the aid effort has prompted governments in the region to work on options for managing future crises. The crisis also heavily informed the European Commission’s communication on promoting resilience (see component 73). Overall, the discrepancy between aid from member states and that given by ECHO demonstrated the growing power of the European Commission in humanitarian affairs. However, the continuing conflict in Mali and its potential to spill over to other countries in the region threatens to confront the EU with even greater humanitarian crises in the future.


Increasing humanitarian assistance, especially in the Sahel
Leaders: France - Germany - Ireland - Luxembourg - Netherlands - Sweden - United Kingdom
Slackers: Greece - Lithuania - Portugal - Slovenia - Spain


Contributing to CSDP mission
Leaders: Austria - Belgium - Estonia - France - Germany - Ireland - Italy - Poland - Spain
Slackers: Cyprus - Denmark - Greece - Lithuania - Portugal - Romania