06/20/2012 09:25 am ET Updated Aug 20, 2012

Tackling the Sahel Food Crisis

This blog is part of a series organized by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction to call attention to the crisis in the Sahel, a region in sub-Saharan Africa where more than 18 million people face starvation and 1.1 million children under the age of 5 are at risk of dying from acute malnutrition. Click here to read more of HuffPost Impact's coverage of the Sahel and here to find out what InterAction members and others are doing in the Sahel.

Currently, more than 18 million people in the Sahel region of West Africa are facing a food crisis. Food supplies are nearly nonexistent. Prices for food are rising drastically. Women and children are faced with the harsh reality of hunger.

No one is exempt from this humanitarian disaster. UNICEF estimates that more than one million children under five years old in the Sahel are threatened by severe acute malnutrition. Farmers are choosing whether to eat their seeds to survive or to save their seeds to plant next season. Some people have even begun searching anthills for bits of grain.

Aissata Abdoul Diop is a member of the Diawoud community women's cooperative in Mauritania. Her cornfields contain drought-withered ears. Due to the lack of rain and high food prices, more than 700,000 Mauritanians are at risk of hunger. That's about a quarter of the country's population!

Kassa Danfakha, a 58-year-old farmer with seven children, grows corn and rice. In 2011, his entire corn crop was wiped out. He harvested less than half the normal yield.

In southern Senegal, the food crisis is not just affecting people. The livestock also are suffering. Amadou Korka Balde, the village chief, says it is caused by the lack of pasture in the area and the poor quality of the remaining grass.

In response, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that it would give $81 million in additional assistance to the Sahel region. The World Food Programme will receive $56 million of that extra funding. The excess amount will be distributed to non-governmental organizations to provide sustainable food programs.

Oxfam International, a relief organization, has partnered with other groups to launch programs to provide aid to people in the area. They are providing clean water by rehabilitating wells and constructing water networks.

On June 7th, Oxfam held a Global Day of Action to raise awareness about the Sahel food crisis. With its partners, the organization spread the word to millions of people who were unaware of the dire circumstances and the lack of emergency funding for the affected area.

To improve access to food, the nonprofit is providing cash and cash-for-work programs to help people between harvests. Also, farmers are receiving seeds and tools to prepare them for the upcoming seasonal rains.

Right now, Oxfam is supporting animal health in the Sahel. The organization is distributing fodder to compensate for poor pasture and reviving the water sources for the animals.

In a joint agency collaboration, Oxfam published a report titled "Food Crisis in the Sahel: Five steps to break the hunger cycle in 2012." Recommendations to solve the issue included the immediate mobilization of governments to speed up the disbursement of sufficient funding and humanitarian interventions that would reach the most vulnerable people with the right assistance.

You can help, too. Take action to help the 18 million people who are facing hunger in the Sahel region. Find out more about the West Africa Food Crisis Fund. Sign a HYPERLINK "" petition urging Secretary Hillary Clinton to show strong U.S. leadership. And continue to spread the word by sharing infographics with family and friends.

Together, we can call attention to the food emergency in the Sahel.