The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns conditions are set to worsen for 60 million hungry people across sub-Saharan Africa as the El Nino weather phenomenon kicks in.
IFRC is launching an $8 million emergency appeal to assist more than 200,000 people in Gambia, Mauritania, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. The appeals aim to help the most vulnerable of the millions at risk.
Africa suffers from chronic food shortages and is regularly hit with floods and drought that decimate harvests, leaving millions of people dependent on food aid to survive.
IFRC says the situation is getting worse as the El Nino climate phenomenon is set to strengthen into next year. El Nino triggers extreme weather events and will likely increase floods in equatorial Africa and drought in parts of southern Africa and the Sahel region.
IFRC spokesman Benoit Carpentier tells VOA it is becoming more difficult for people to cope with food shortages because they have little time to recover from one weather disaster before another sets in.
He says the focus of the agency’s appeal is to try to help communities build resilience with small agricultural, seed distribution, and livelihood projects so they can cope with the more frequent climate shocks.
“What they build back every year is getting smaller every year," he said. "That's what we are trying to tackle with these appeals that we have launched in these countries. Definitely time is really ticking because ... the El Nino phenomenon is going to amplify those. We already see the impact and we really need to act quite fast.”
IFRC warns malnutrition rates are very high in Africa and the lack of nutritious food may be life threatening for children, people with HIV and other vulnerable groups.
Carpentier says hunger may drive families to pull their children out of school and put them to work, and women might trade sex for food, putting themselves at risk of HIV.