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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More