One million children severely malnourishedSunday, July 29th, 2012
A million severely malnourished children are waiting to receive care in Sahel, the highest number in the history of humanitarian aid.
This is according to figures released by UNICEF, which also states that countries of Sahel affected had already developed a prevention plan and emergency response at the end of 2011, with the help of humanitarian organisations.
The plan includes treatment for approximately one million severely malnourished children and the distribution of special milk based foods to prevent malnutrition.
However, market prices increased due to epidemics and political instability, and a heavy rainy season in southern Niger and parts of eastern Chad, has increased malaria, which, together with malnutrition, is a deadly combination for children.
Over the last 6 months, about 56 000 children were admitted to the medical humanitarian organisation nutritional programs Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in seven countries of the region, more than 36 000 of these live in Niger.
MSF currently operates 21 nutrition programs in Sahel.
The Sahel, often referred to Central and West Africa, is situated to the south of the Sahara. The drought has led to severe food shortages and UN estimates at least 15 million people could be affected across seven countries.
The crisis is affecting 3.6 million people in Chad, 5.4 million in Niger, 3 million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso, and hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania.
Trócaire is working with partner organisations to deliver emergency aid to the region.
Fighting in northern Mali between the army and a rebel group has compounded the situation by forcing over 100,000 people to flee their homes. Roughly half of those people have fled to other regions of Mali, while the other half has sought refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Niger.
There Trócaire and partner organisations are giving emergency provisions to refugees who are living in makeshift shelters. Water, hygiene kits and sanitation facilities are also supplied to meet the urgent needs in the camps.
In June at the time of Rio+20 (world leaders in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of the planet) Justin Kilcullen wrote in the Irish Times about a Trócaire two-year research project into the effects of climate change on rural communities in the developing world. It painted a picture of communities battling food insecurity and plagued by migration, conflict and health issues as a result of climate change.
“In Africa alone, it is projected that by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people will face increased water stress as a result of climate change and in some countries agricultural yields could fall by up to 50 per cent,” he wrote.
Christian Aid reports that due to lack of rain and widespread drought, there is an overall cereal deficit across the Sahel. Cereal production across the region is 26% lower than last year while in the worst affected regions of Burkina Faso, it is down by almost 50%.
Niger currently has the highest number of people affected with more than 6.4 million people at risk of severe food shortages. A further 4.6 million people are vulnerable in Mali and 2.9 million in Burkina Faso.
Christian Aid is working with fellow NGOs in the Sahel Working Group (SWG), lobbying international bodies to release sufficient funds to tackle the crisis. In mid-June, the SWG met President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger who issued a joint call with them for funding to help communities better withstand food shortages in the future.
One of many Christian Aid actions is creating cash-for-work programmes in Mali where the most vulnerable receive seeds and prepare their land to withstand drought.
by Ann Marie Foley