News / Africa

UNICEF Urges Quick Action in Sahel

Image released by Oxfam shows a women pointing at the dry land in Oud Guedara. Early indicators point to a likely food crisis in 2012, with people at particularly high risk in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, December 11, 2011.
Image released by Oxfam shows a women pointing at the dry land in Oud Guedara. Early indicators point to a likely food crisis in 2012, with people at particularly high risk in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, December 11, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations Children's Fund is reporting that more than 1 million children are facing life-threatening malnutrition due to serious food shortages in eight Northern and Western African countries.

Food insecurity and widespread, acute malnutrition are chronic problems in the Sahel, where UNICEF officials are urging quick action to avert a humanitarian crisis. In 2010, millions of people faced hunger due to poor rainfall and subsequently poor harvest, and UNICEF projects that next year will be even worse than 2010.

The agency says the food and malnutrition crisis, which is expected as early as February, is compounded by the return of some 200,000 migrant laborers, many of whom had been working in Libya for years before the civil war and sending large amounts of money to their families back home. These remittances now are lost.

Most of the migrants come from northern Nigeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania. Chad, Burkina Faso, the north of Cameroon and northern Senegal also are affected by the food shortages.

David Gressly, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, says more than 1 million children in these countries face severe, acute malnutrition - a condition that puts their lives at risk.

“You have a population that constantly lives on the edge and is now being pushed over the edge because of a poor rainfall, compounded by the fact that the situation is a repeat of 2010," from which people have had very little time to recover, he says. "They are being hit with this again and very early on. So we are very concerned that this will have a significant impact, and if we do not respond early, it could result in large loss of life.”

Gressly says UNICEF and other aid agencies are working on an integrated plan to pre-position food and other essential supplies in at-risk countries in the coming weeks. He says each agency, such as the World Food Program and the World Health Organization, has a particular function to perform.

UNICEF’s primary responsibility is treatment of acute malnutrition, which, he says, involves therapeutic feeding to help children recover from the life-threatening condition.

“So, basically, we need commodities [required] for the therapeutic treatment of severe, acute malnutrition, but also related health support, which includes things like vaccinations, clean water [and hygiene] supplies," he says. "In this situation of hunger, then, people and particularly children are much more vulnerable to mortality, to a variety of factors, not just the malnutrition itself. So it is important to have an integrated approach to avoid further deaths.”

While the outlook is alarming, Gressly says there is still time to avert a humanitarian catastrophe on the order of that occurring in the Horn of Africa, explaining that a couple of months remain to get food into the pipeline.  

Since countries in the Sahel are landlocked, he says it is important to get started as soon as possible, and that, if an emergency is declared, it will be a lot cheaper to send relief supplies by road than by airplane.  

He says UNICEF needs $71 million to provide therapeutic treatment, a figure likely to rise substantially as the crisis strikes throughout 2012.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid