The World Food Program has warned of potential food shortages in the Sahel region of Africa, saying the annual "lean" season has begun early.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the U.N. agency said millions of people in the western Africa region face hunger as food supplies run out before a new harvest later this year. The agency said $54 million is needed to feed more than three million people in the region, but that less than one third of that amount has been raised.
Officials say they are requesting aid early this year to avoid a repeat of last year when millions of people in Niger suffered during massive food shortages.
They expressed particular concern about food supplies in Mauritania, where officials said food could run out by June.