News / Africa

Hunger, Malnutrition Rise in Western Chad

Natasha Saini

Hunger and malnutrition are on the rise in Western Chad according to a report by the international humanitarian group, Action Against Hunger.

The desert region of Western Chad is facing a food emergency, Action Against Hunger, reported Thursday. The group's survey found that in particular, Bahr el Ghazal is one of the worst off areas, where nearly 17,000 children risk death because of malnutrition.  

Mariana Merelo Lobo, Director of Operations for Action Against Hunger tells VOA, the issue is growing worse. "In the previous fifteen years we would have acute malnutrition rates of around 20 percent and at the end of last year we found almost 27 percent of acute malnutrition [in children under the age of five] which is very, very, very high," she said.

The humanitarian organization is launching a year-long emergency operation in the region that includes setting up local health centers and promoting community programs.

"We have three main aspects of intervention - one is the detection and referral to appropriate nutrition centers, the other one is the treatment of acutely malnourished children and we are hoping to treat at least 8,000 children who are severely malnourished, and the monitoring of the situation in the region," Lobo explained.

Action Against Hunger hopes it will also be able to help improve existing health care structures in the region and will begin a public awareness campaign to try and instruct families in care and nutrition practices for young children.

Falling food production, rising prices, cyclical droughts and increasing desertification have hit other areas of the Sahel region of Africa as well. Aid workers say that means not only that many go hungry, but also that thousands of farmers have lost their means of livelihood. And they say aid contributions are often lacking.

Lobo says Action Against Hunger is currently receiving funding for its operations in western Chad from Britain. "We are really not receiving any other support for this particular operation and this is very worrying then given the intensity and dimension of the crisis," she said.

Besides drought and rising food prices, Chad's humanitarian crisis is also partly due to an ongoing conflict that involves neighboring Sudan. And the influx of thousands of refugees fleeing that conflict is only adding to the crisis.

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