A deteriorating food and nutrition crisis has swept West Africa’s Sahel region where reports say 15 million are directly affected by drought and conflict-related crisis.
Reports say more than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and another one million are threatened by hunger and famine.
Conflict and unrest, more people being displaced, rising food and fuel prices and severe drought are also prevalent in the region.
To address the humanitarian crisis engulfing the region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a “cascading crisis” sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa.
“I call upon the world to respond. Simply put, we must do more – and do it quickly.” – Mr. Ban
He says the statistics are sobering: 15 million people are directly affected.
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.
Mr. Ban stresses that by acting decisively and with practical vision now, it will be possible to head off future crises.
“Across the board, we need to think differently. If the cascading crisis in the Sahel demonstrates anything, it is the need to dig deeper … to get at the root causes of conflict.” -Mr. Ban
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.