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Apr 24, 2012

UNICEF - Speedy Action Needed to Provide Food Aid to Between 1 and 1.5 Million Children in Africa's Sahel Region

Mothers and children
Refugees in Africa's west Sahel Region
Photo: UN Togo
According to reports from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), between 1 and 1.5 million children under the age of five in the Sahel region of Africa are in urgent need of food aid.  Overall there are an estimated 15 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance.  The United Nations estimates that it needs  US$1 billion in total to provide aid across the region.  To date, less half the amount needed has been raised.

UNICEF is most concerned about the impact that famine is having on the development of the children in the region.  As a short-term measure, it is setting up nutrition rehabilitation centers across the region and hopes to double the number in operation in the next two months. According to U.N. officials "it costs a lot less to immunize children and prevent disease, then to treat them when they become malnourished and close to starvation."

As of April 2012, there are an estimated 15 million people that need aid.  However, this could rise to 23 million if the situation does not stabilize.  The current figures are distributed as:
  • 5.4 million in Niger
  • 3.0 million in Mali
  • 1.7 million in Burkina Faso
  • 3.6 million in Chad
  • hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, Mauritania, and Togo
Less than half the funds needed have been raised and international NGOs are expressing concern that the children are the most vulnerable and in the coming weeks will be the most in need of humanitarian aid.  The United Nations fundraising appeal had a target of US$700 million dollars and has fallen short of 50% of this amount. World Vision, Action Against Hunger, Save the Children and Oxfam have also not met their fundraising expectations. They aimed for $250 million and have only raised an estimated $52 million.

The targeted fundraising goals are not only for food aid but also to provide healthcare and shelter to refugees fleeing the drought and warfare. Some of the funding will also be targeted at constructing or rebuilding agriculture infrastructure such as irrigation systems so that the people can make a livelihood from farming.

According to World Vision's Chris Webster, while the media has focused attention on the famine in the Horn Africa, it has not successfully communicated the seriousness of the famine across the Sahel region. He notes that the situation is very serious now and will be much worse in five weeks time as humanitarian agencies will lose the ability to provide an early response.
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About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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