Break the cycle of disasters for the children of the Sahel and act now, says UNICEF
N’DJAMENA, Chad, 4 April 2012 – As malnutrition reaches emergency levels across the Sahel with at least one million children at risk, UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake on a visit to the region today called for an urgent escalation of humanitarian efforts to stop the crisis and the cycle of disasters.
“Children find it harder now to bounce back and resist other health threats like polio, measles, meningitis, and cholera,” he added. “The people of the Sahel are on the edge of a perfect storm with one million children at risk.”
In preparation UNICEF has mobilised nutritionists and set up hundreds of nutritional rehabilitation centres across all eight countries of the Sahel where an estimated 15 million people are affected by the drought. During the months of January and February tens of thousands of children were treated for severe acute malnutrition at nutritional rehabilitation centres that are filling up fast with the start of the ‘lean season’ – traditionally the worst time of the year in a harsh environment with difficult logistics.
With the Ministry of Health, UNICEF Chad has set up 261 nutrition rehabilitation centres and has plans to double the number in the next two months. Chad also has the highest numbers of polio cases in Africa and is second only in the world to Pakistan for the disease. Chad is also currently dealing with a meningitis outbreak.
UNICEF sees the current crisis as a new opportunity to tackle the causes of chronically high malnutrition in the Sahel by helping governments and communities build robust health systems, social services, social protection and support for sustainable livelihoods and behavioural change.
“These are landlocked countries with tough climates and geography against them. They need help before and after these crises,” he added.