© David Burnett, 1974, Two young boys: the Sahel drought, Niger
The Sahel drought was a series of historic droughts, beginning in at least the 17th century affecting the Sahel region, a climate zone sandwiched between the African savanna grasslands to the south and the Sahara desert to the north, across West and Central Africa. While the frequency of drought in the region is thought to have increased from the end of the 19th century, three long droughts have had dramatic environmental and societal effects upon the Sahel nations.
Famine followed severe droughts in the 1910s, the 1940s, and the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, although a partial recovery occurred from 1975-80. While at least one particularly severe drought has been confirmed each century since the 17th century, the frequency and severity of recent Sahelian droughts stands out. Famine and dislocation on a massive scale—from 1968 to 1974 and again in the early and mid 1980s—was blamed on two spikes in the severity of the 1960-1980s drought period.
From the late 1960s to early 1980s famine killed a 100,000 people, left 750,000 dependent on food aid, and affected most of the Sahel’s 50 million people. (read more)