Urgent support needed as millions of children face hunger in the Sahel region this summer

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 Sahel 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."

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.

Dori Sahel Region Burkino Faso by Adam Jones Ph.D.

Dori – Sahel Region – Burkino Faso by Adam Jones Ph.D.

"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.

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.

To protect families at risk, Action Against Hunger also distributes free food and dietary supplements to the most vulnerable, largely children aged six to 23 months and pregnant women.

"In addition to the immediate emergency response support, long-term support and investment is needed to address the structural vulnerabilities that leave millions of men, women and children in the Sahel every year in need of help," Lafite added.

In 2013 , Action Against Hunger teams assisted more than three million people in the Sahel region through programmes that focused on nutrition, food security and livelihood support, health, water, sanitation and hygiene.

IMAGE: Adam Jones, Ph.D./Wikimedia Commons Personal website: adamjones.freeservers.com Global Photo Archive: My full collection of all-original, full-color, high-resolution Creative Commons images — currently nearing 9,000 in total — is archived in galleries at www.flickr.com/adam_jones/sets/

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