Lack of rains last year across the Sahel, that part of West Africa lying just south of the Sahara, resulted in poor harvests, which sparked higher prices for staples such as millet. This left some 19 million people across the region dependent on food aid. The situation was already perilous when the rains failed. A food crisis in 2010 had left more than 10 million already facing shortages. In Mali, some 4.6 million people are in need.
Christian Aid's country manager, Yacouba Kone, says it is too early to tell whether this year's rains will produce a harvest plentiful enough to fill the grain stores. "The fields may look as if they are full of food – the rains so far this year have been good – but the harvest is still months away, and, meanwhile, the granaries are bare, and people are struggling," he said. "A 100kg sack of rice last year cost 30,000 West African francs. Now the price is 50,000. Poverty here is entrenched and only a few can afford the fruit and vegetables you see for sale..."
. At one village, Goroulie, flash floods destroyed a number of homes and food stores. The 63-year-old village chief, Antongoule Guindo, who in better times farms millet and soya bean, said: "Physically, we are alive, but inside we are dead. The children go to sleep hungry."