News

UN Calls for Speedy Action to Save Children in Sahel

This family from Mali have joined other refugees in Niger. Many are living in makeshift camps along the border, with little food or water.
This family from Mali have joined other refugees in Niger. Many are living in makeshift camps along the border, with little food or water.
Lisa Schlein

United Nations aid agencies say speedy action can save the lives of more than one million children in West Africa’s Sahel region who are at risk of dying from acute severe malnutrition.

But, in an exclusive interview, the head of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) tells VOA this window of opportunity is closing and the time for the international community to respond to this crisis is now.  

The Sahel is facing its third food crisis in less than a decade.  The United Nations estimates 15 million people are affected by food shortages and warns this number could go up to 23 million if the region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to Chad and Cameroon, continues to be neglected.

Children are among the most vulnerable. The United Nations warns more than one million children in eight Sahelian countries are threatened with death from malnutrition-related causes.

The Exeutive-Director of the U.N. Children’s Fund, Anthony Lake, has just returned from a visit to Chad where he witnessed the impact of this nutrition crisis upon the children.  He tells VOA the statistics are impressive, but adds they often mask the heartbreaking reality of the children behind them.  

He recalls a visit to one of UNICEF’s feeding centers where children suffering from acute severe malnutrition are being treated. “There I met a mother and a little child named Fatima," said Lake. "She looked to be about five months old or four months old.  She is actually just over a year.  But, she is recovering.  And, I just kept looking at her and thinking not just about how she is alive, but she now has this whole future ahead of her.  And, when you see that in one child and then you think about it in terms of a million times, you can be very moved," he said.

UNICEF, with the Ministry of Health in Chad, has set up 261 nutrition rehabilitation centers and it has plans to double the number in the next two months.  The agency also has set up hundreds of nutrition centers across the other seven drought-affected countries.

While these treatment centers are critical in saving lives, U.N. agencies agree they are only one element in a much larger, complex emergency operation.  But, this life-saving operation is hampered by lack of money.  The United Nations has received less than half of the $740 million it needs.

Lake recognizes so-called donor fatigue may be playing a part. “That may be.  But, these are children.  These are children’s futures.  These are children who are not responsible for all of the problems that are now possibly going to end their lives.  So, we simply cannot afford to get tired," he said.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, agrees. She notes the problem of malnutrition is compounded by disease.  She says most children suffering from malnutrition who are not vaccinated against measles, meningitis and other diseases will not survive.  

However, she says 95 percent will live if action is taken now to immunize these children and prevent and treat malnutrition. “We have an early warning.  And, we still have time to act before it turns into a major crisis or mega-crisis as in the case of Pakistan and Haiti…And, we are talking about one to 1.5 million children under five whose life is hanging in the balance," she said.

U.N. officials say it costs a lot less to immunize children and prevent disease, then to treat them when they become ill.  They say it costs a lot less to feed children before they become malnourished than to treat them once they are on the brink of death.  They say there is still time to prevent the worst from happening-but, time is running out.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs