One million children at risk of dying of malnutrition in Sahel: UNICEF
BANGKOK, 2 May 2012 – At least one million children are at risk of dying of malnutrition due to the drought crisis in the Sahel, an arid region that stretches across eight countries in West-Central Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund said today.
“We estimate that in 2012 there will be over a million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” said UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Director David Gressly. “What’s important to know is that malnutrition can kill.”
Currently, some 15 million people are facing food insecurity due to the worsening drought, rising food prices, failed crops and the profound fragility of life in the region. Families – many of them living in the areas which are difficult to access – are now selling their livestock, taking their children out of schools and reducing their nutritional intake, which makes them even more vulnerable as the crisis develops.
Affected by the nutrition crisis are all of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.
UNICEF has sent ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition among children to the eight countries and set up thousands of health centres. UNICEF has also dispatched nutritionists, emergency specialists and operations support staff to the affected areas, and is working together with governments, other UN agencies and NGO partners to establish and expand the safety nets for prevention and treatment of severe malnutrition.
UNICEF has appealed for US$ 120 million in order to save more children's lives and scale up its operations in the areas of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection in the affected countries. Only half of the required funding has been donated so far.
“We want to make sure that Sahel crisis is on the map,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes. “We need more resources to really scale up our response before it becomes too late and too many lives are lost.”
Last month, UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake visited Chad, which is also facing a renewed outbreak of polio. There he met with vulnerable communities, including nomads, a group that is severely affected by both drought and threatened by the polio outbreak.
UNICEF has been working to help children in Thailand for more than 60 years.