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UNICEF warns of looming children’s crisis in the Sahel

Agency prepares for major malnutrition intervention across eight countries in 2012

DAKAR/GENEVA, 9 December 2011 – An estimated 1,025,000 children in the Sahel region of Africa face severe and life threatening malnutrition during the coming year according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF. The organisation is preparing to meet what it describes as a “huge challenge” and is already ordering therapeutic foods and distributing emergency stocks.

UNICEF’s West and Central Africa office says the biggest caseload, with an estimated 330,600 children under-5 at risk of severe and acute malnutrition is Niger, where the government has issued an alert saying more than half of the country’s villages are vulnerable to food insecurity. Other countries and regions where children are expected to require specialist treatment in clinics are Chad, northern Nigeria, the north of Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and northern Senegal.

“This children’s crisis is going to be immensely challenging. We do not issue such warnings lightly, but the scale demands an appropriate response that needs to start now,” says UNICEF’s Regional Director David Gressly.

“A tragedy will be averted only by an unprecedented effort in the Sahel. This will involve making sure that professionals are on the ground with the right supplies and that enough is done to contain the threat of opportunistic diseases amongst the weakened populations,” Gressly said.

UNICEF needs urgently an initial $65,700,000 primarily for nutrition and health interventions and supplies.. But this amount will be increased substantially to ensure sustainable interventions over the course of the coming year. These will involve not only enhanced nutrition and health programmes but also provision of clean water, sanitation at feeding centres as well as emergency education and protection for children displaced with their families.


UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:
Martin Dawes, UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa,
Mobile + 221 77 569 1925,

Marixie Mercado, UNICEF Geneva,
Tel + 4179 756 7703,




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