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.
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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid