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London, 27 May 2014
Action Against Hunger/ACF International is calling on urgent donor support to prevent a food crisis in the Sahel in the coming weeks. Some 15 million people in six countries of the region are currently food insecure, including five million children, according to the latest regional analysis.
The burden of malnutrition throughout the region remains unacceptably high, with 1.5 million children at risk of severe acute malnutrition – the most deadly form of the condition.
"We are very concerned about the severity of food insecurity in parts of the Sahel and the limited donor response to date ," said Anais Lafite , regional representative for Action Against Hunger in West Africa
"The levels of need we are seeing once again point out the fragility and precariousness of the most vulnerable households in the region, difficulty recovering from past crises and the increasing erosion of their resilience and coping mechanisms.”
The scale of the problem
Just under four million people require immediate assistance, a figure likely to rise to six million between June and October, which is also known as the ‘lean season’. The start of the so-called ‘lean season’ puts pressure on already vulnerable populations as crops run out before new harvests are ready, food stocks and other household resources are low, and heavy rains mean that the risk of water-borne diseases like cholera and ebola increases.
Any sudden rise in food prices or the arrival of people displaced by insecurity in northern Nigeria or the Central African Republic, for example, could push people into crisis.
"The context and leading indicators suggest that the nutritional situation in the Sahel could equal that of 2013, during which 20 districts in the region exceeded emergency thresholds in terms of acute malnutrition ," said Lafite. Small farmers are, once again, the most affected population.
“While the figures are slightly lower than in previous years, they are just as unacceptable and we must use all means to prevent it," explained Pilar Charle, head of nutrition for Action Against Hunger in the Sahel.
Taking Action Against Hunger in the Sahel
The organisation has been working in the Sahel for up to eight years, implementing measures that reduce the impact of the lean season on affected populations, including by strengthening community networks, monitoring the nutritional status of children and cases where they have stopped treatment, and working to ensure more children with malnutrition are identified, by enlisting more staff and expanding area it works within.