FILE - Displaced children wait for help at a village of Dablo area, Burkina Faso, March 2, 2019.
FILE - Displaced children wait for help at a village of Dablo area, Burkina Faso, March 2, 2019.

GENEVA - The World Food Program warns millions of people in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso do not have enough to eat and are in desperate and immediate need of food aid.

A recent U.N. food assessment in the Central Sahel finds 3.3 million people are going hungry, a rise of nearly 1 million since last year.  World Food Program spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs warns this alarming situation is expected to worsen without sustained humanitarian support.

"The number of food-insecure people is expected to double as the June lean season gets underway, pushing 4.8 million people into hunger, up from 2.4 million in 2019," she said. 

Hunger is wreaking havoc on the nutritional status of people in these countries.  The U.N. Children’s fund reports more than 700,000 children under 5 suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.  

The United Nations reports nearly a million people in the region have been displaced by conflict, which is devastating agriculture and rural economies.  Many people are fleeing in search of food and grazing land for their cattle.  

Byrs tells VOA people are resorting to extreme measures to survive.

"They skip meals. They sell their asset," she said. "In some conflict-affected areas, some people have a lot of difficulty to find something to eat.”  

WFP is working to scale up its humanitarian operation to assist 2 million people across the three Sahelian countries.  It is urgently appealing for $227 million to provide life-saving food aid over the next six months.  Money also will be used for education, nutrition, and health, and to shore up livelihoods.