Five million people in the Sahel region are going to be on the brink of hunger in the coming months following a drought, as current funding will not be enough to prevent starvation, the United Nations informed. Poor rain that caused little vegetation to grow is causing food shortage in a semi-arid belt below the Sahara desert. The peak of the crisis is yet to hit in the Sahel but more supplies must be secured now to prevent deaths from hunger during the upcoming summer.
“For once, the agencies and our partners are calling for action before the tragedy,” UNICEF’s regional director Marie-Pierre Poirier said. “We must act now, immediately, to avoid children dying.” UNICEF estimates that more than 1.6 million children in the Sahel are at risk of acute malnutrition, which is 50% more than during the region’s last major food crisis in 2012. The organization expects that 1.3 million packets of therapeutic food will be needed to save most vulnerable but it has only been able to order 700,000.
The major areas at risk include Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, northern Senegal and southern Mauritania. The region only has one growing season and if it does not go well due to external factors such as climate or conflict, people are forced to survive until the next season. This year, many families have already run out of their food stock, which were meant to last until September. “We are hearing of people cutting down the number of daily meals and children dropping out of school,” said Abdou Dieng, regional director of the World Food Programme (WFP). “If we don’t do anything for these people, what will they do? Die, or join terrorist groups, or migrate,” Mr. Dieng added.