The hunger crisis currently devastating Niger has also had an impact throughout the Sahel region, affecting at least some 2.5 million more people in neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.
In Mali, 1.1 million people will need food aid in 2005, mainly in the regions of Moptu, Timbuktu and Gao, and 5,000 children in the north already suffer from acute malnutrition with infant mortality reaching record levels in some areas.
In Burkina Faso, some 500,000 people need assistance and migrations in search of food have been noted. An evaluation in areas of particular concern has found that 11 per cent of children aged one to five suffer from moderate malnutrition, while 6 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition.
In Mauritania, where some 750,000, or 26 per cent of the population, have been affected by last year's locust invasion, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is on the ground, assessing the scope of the situation.
In Niger, where 2.5 million people confront hunger and thousands of children have already died, international food aid began arriving in an airlift last week.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told a news briefing on Friday he was now hopeful that most of the $30.7 million so far sought for Niger would be forthcoming, with $25 million already in hand or pledged, but that the figure would again be revised upwards.
"Over the last few days, the world has finally woken up, but it took graphic images of dying children for this to happen," he said.