Millions of children at risk of malnutrition in the Sahel, warn aid agencies

International aid organizations warn of a growing hunger crisis in the central Sahel due to climate change, drought and insecurity.

About four million children under the age of five – about a third of those in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso – are at risk of acute malnutrition in the coming weeks, according to Save the Children.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), more than 10.5 million people in these three countries, as well as Mauritania, are at risk of hunger during the upcoming agricultural lean season – the one between harvests when food stocks are reduced. The situation is aggravated by the worst drought in decades. About 80% of the population depends on agriculture to survive.

Niger and Mauritania both produced 40% less food than the five-year average, the ICRC said in a statement, with Mauritania also affected by bushfires.

lean season

Conflict and insecurity exacerbate the problem. “Violence in the Sahel is not only fueling the food crisis, it is causing one in many places. The situation is critical and the lean season could be catastrophic if a concerted effort is not made to help the millions of people affected,” said Patrick Youssef, ICRC Africa director.

At least two million people have been displaced in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Mauritania, according to the ICRC – the vast majority of them in Burkina Faso, where almost 10% of the population has been forced to leave his home due to insecurity. and conflict, which means they cannot cultivate their land at all.

“In some places in Burkina Faso, people queue for 72 hours to access boreholes. Their life revolves entirely around reaching the water. If the situation deteriorates further, we face the real possibility of people and animals dying of thirst,” Mr. Youssef said.

Ukrainian invasion

Some 38 million West Africans could need emergency food aid this year, according to Save the Children.

The invasion of Ukraine has driven up fuel and food prices across Africa – where countries were already grappling with the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited the region, tweeting: “Families I met today in Niger – like millions of others in the Sahel – have done nothing to cause the climate crisis, conflict or record food prices. Yet they suffer from some of the most devastating consequences – hunger and displacement. My call to the world today: Don’t abandon the Sahel.

Humanitarian response plans for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger drawn up by the UN and humanitarian organizations have a combined target of $1.82 billion (€1.75 billion), of which less than 10% have been funded to date.

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