18 million in Africa’s Sahel region on ‘brink of starvation’

The United Nations is warning that 18 million people in Africa’s Sahel region are facing severe hunger over the next three months.

Food insecurity in the Muslim nations of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger is set to reach its highest level since 2014, warned the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

On Friday the UN released an additional $30 million from its emergency humanitarian fund to boost the humanitarian response across four countries.

“Entire families in the Sahel are on the brink of starvation,” said Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “If we don’t act now, people will perish”.

In the Sahel, 7.7 million children under five are expected to suffer from malnutrition, of which 1.8 million are severely malnourished. And if aid operations are not scaled up, this number could reach 2.4 million by the year’s end.

“A combination of violence, insecurity, deep poverty and record-high food prices is exacerbating malnutrition and driving millions to the fringes of survival,” said the humanitarian affairs chief.

The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, where almost 1.7 million people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August.

Households are experiencing large gaps in food consumption; high levels of acute malnutrition and associated deaths; and families are selling off items needed for their lives and livelihoods, such as farm tools.

“The recent spike in food prices driven by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is threatening to turn a food security crisis into a humanitarian disaster,” said the Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“There is no time to lose,” said Mr. Griffiths. “Lives are at stake. This injection of cash will help agencies on the ground scale up the emergency response to help avoid a catastrophe”.

Earlier this year, the humanitarian community launched six humanitarian appeals in the Sahel for a total of $3.8 billion to provide aid throughout the region for 2022.

However, halfway through the year, the appeals are less than 12 per cent funded.

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