Gauteng and NW Province

Humanitarian disaster looms in drought-stricken Sahel

Mark Tran

Relief groups are stepping up their appeals for aid to tackle the worsening food crisis in Sahel region in Africa, where more than 18-million people face hunger.

Save the children, which has increased its emergency operations in Sahel, this week said it faces a funding shortfall of almost $ 40-million. The charity hopes to close the funding gap and raise extra money to help the 1.5-million people – including almost a million children – most urgently in need.

Relief agencies have been sounding the alarm for months about the effects of drought on the Sahel. With the onset of the “lean season” – the next three months will be the driest and harshest period of the year – aid groups warn that the worst is yet to come.

“For months now families have been telling us they have next to nothing to eat,” said Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children. “In Niger, mothers have little or no food to feed their children. Our analysis now shows just how bad the situation has become and confirms our worst fears: a major emergency is now upon us.”

Unicef, the UN agency for children, said it aims to address the most pressing needs, including preventing epidemics through vaccination campaigns, and reducing the risk of malaria through the distribution of bed nets.
Unicef warned in December that more than one million children would need life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition and appealed for $119.5-million.

The figure has since gone up, as the conflict in Mali has forced 170 000 people from their homes, with some seeking refuge in neighbouring Mauritania, Burkino Faso and Niger.

Save the Children said its analysis shows that part of Mauritania the poorest households are missing an estimated 80% of their basic needs for the months of June and July. In one area in Mali, the poorest families have less than 40% of the food they need to survive from June to September. As of this month in Burkina Faso, the poorest families will only have 30% of what they need for the next four months – unless they get help immediately.

Mail & Guardian
June 15 – 21 2012

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