By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 11 June 2012 – As conditions in the Sahel region of Africa continue to worsen, international recording artist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo has added her voice to the movement to save the lives of more than 1 million children under age 5 who are at risk of deadly severe acute malnutrition.
|20 April, 2012: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo delivers a public service announcement calling for help for children in the Sahel. Watch in RealPlayer|
Millions pushed to the limit
Ms. Kidjo has recorded a public service announcement to encourage people to donate to UNICEF’s campaign to raise US$238 million to address the nutrition crisis afflicting West and Central Africa, where droughts have pushed millions of families to their limits. Nearly US$93 million has been raised so far.
UNICEF is already providing life-saving support, shipping in food and personnel as the so-called ‘lean season’ goes into full effect.
Ms. Kidjo is one of several UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors using their influence to raise awareness of the looming tragedy in the Sahel. Among them are actors Mia Farrow and Danny Glover, musicians Lang Lang and Shakira and FC Barcelona football star Leo Messi.
“We can't let a million children starve – not on our watch,” Ms. Kidjo said.
It’s estimated that 18 million people in nine countries are affected by the crisis, which has been precipitated by successive droughts and rising food prices. Conflict in Mali has displaced hundreds of thousands, adding to the pressure on families.
UNICEF is undertaking an integrated response. During the first four months of the year, UNICEF provided treatment to more than a quarter of a million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Health services are being provided in concert with nutrition assistance; more than 6 million children have been vaccinated against measles and more than 9 million have received a treated bed net to reduce the risk of malaria. Because children from affected communities are dropping out of school, educational support is also being provided.
But as the rainy season approaches, cholera is becoming an increasing threat. UNICEF is also preparing to respond to epidemics of measles and meningitis, which could have a devastating effect on already undernourished children.
“The people of the Sahel remain resourceful and courageous, despite years of appalling hardship. But they need urgent help,” Ms. Kidjo said.
Food crisis in the Sahel