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News Outlets Report On Food Crisis In Sahel Region of Africa

A food crisis is developing across the Sahel region – from Mauritania and Guinea to Nigeria and Sudan – where “[m]illions” of people are facing hunger and malnutrition, aid groups say, afrol News reports.

The U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) said Friday it had this year freed about $20.5 million to address the food situation in the region. “CERF funds so far have focused on five West and Central African states – Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad,” afrol News writes. About 7.8 million people in Niger and 2 million people in Chad are facing food insecurity, according to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Millions of others are expected to be affected in other parts of the Sahel, which are “poorly mapped,” the news service reports (4/9).

Also UNICEF says that almost 860,000 children under age 5 in the Sahel region are at risk of severe malnutrition, VOA News reports. “UNICEF says five countries in the Sahel are facing a food crisis because of bad harvests brought on by an ongoing drought. … Millions of people throughout the region are suffering from the ongoing drought and crop failure. But UNICEF Deputy Director for Emergency Operations Dermot Cartney says children are always the most vulnerable,” the news service writes. “Once the child is born and begins to grow, the child needs to get access to vitamins and minerals. In these situations, unfortunately, these minerals and a proper amount of food is not available,” Cartney said (Schlein, 4/10). “Only half of the $50 million sought by the agency to deal with the crisis has been received so far, [Christiane Berthiaume, a UNICEF spokesperson,] said, adding that the funds are needed as soon as possible because the crisis is expected to peak within the next two months,” the U.N. News Centre writes (4/9).

In related news, the Associated Press examines hunger and malnutrition among children in southern Sudan.

“Two years of failed rains and tribal clashes have laid the foundation for Africa’s newest humanitarian crisis. The World Food Program quadrupled its assistance levels from January to March in the Akobo region of southeastern Sudan,” according to the AP. “Southern Sudan lies in a drought-prone belt of Africa, but the situation has been exacerbated by rising intertribal violence that claimed more than 2,000 lives in 2009. Because of the global financial meltdown, the government has fewer available resources.”

Almost 46 percent of children in the Akobo region are malnourished, according to a survey by Save the Children and Medair. Lise Grande, the top U.N. official in southern Sudan, said Akobo is the “hungriest place on Earth” and “noted that most humanitarian agencies regard a malnutrition rate of 15 percent to be an emergency threshold.”

The article details the situation in Akobo and looks at food aid distribution strategy (Straziuso, 4/9).

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