With failed harvest and less rain in the drought-hit Sahel, 15 million people are now facing food insecurity in the region which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes countries such as Niger and Mali.
Reports say Niger is again facing a crisis of a failed harvest because last season the rains did not come.
In Mali, 3.5 million will be affected by severe food insecurity this year as insecurity displaced more than a quarter of a million people since the beginning of 2012.
To address the humanitarian situation, a top United Nations official appealed on to the international community to provide the resources needed to help millions in crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa..
Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin warns that the situation is critical and there is no time to lose.
“This is one that the international community cannot and must not ignore.” -Ms. Cousin
On her visit to Niger, Ms. Cousin raised awareness of the crisis and mobilize support for emergency assistance to the people affected in the country and in neighbouring Mali.
She stresses that the situation is critical following the recent drought which has brought hunger for the third time in recent years.
She reports that because the rains failed last season, the hungry poor, the most vulnerable populations, are now at the point where they have depleted their assets particularly in Niger.
In Niger, WFP has launched an emergency operation to support 3.3 million people, with a special focus on children under two.
In addition, sSome 35 per cent of people being assisted will receive cash.
WFP reports that over 423,000 thousand people have already received support through food-for-assets and cash-for-work programmes.
WFP estimates it needs some $450 million to help people across the region.
“We have about three to four weeks for the international community to invest in WFP and other UN partner organizations working in the Sahel.” -Ms. Cousin
Reports say more than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and another one million are threatened by hunger and famine in the region.
On April this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a “cascading crisis” sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the food and nutrition crisis facing countries in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate this year despite commendable early response efforts by governments and international aid agencies.
The worsening food shortages and malnutrition have been caused by conflict and insecurity, OCHA added.
UN agencies and partners last December appealed for $724 million to fund the humanitarian response to the crisis in the Sahel.
In addition, UN reports that at least one million children under the age of five across Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of dying from severe famine and malnutrition due to drought.
The estimates over 220,000 vulnerable children live in Mali alone.
UNICEF appeals that it needs USD 120 million to tackle the worsening crisis.
In March this year, UN reports that countries in the Sahel are at risk of full-scale food and nutrition crisis.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in Sahel region, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania.
The Sahel has regularly been afflicted by food insecurity as drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
Last year, the World Food Programme (WFP) also implemented an emergency operation for 737,000 people, including acutely malnourished children, in parts of Chad, which has also been affected by the drought afflicting the eastern Sahel region.
In addition, WFP had fed 670,000 children under the age of two and their families in drought-stricken Niger, where as many as eight million people need assistance.
The Sahel belt of Africa stretches from Senegal to Eritrea.