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UN appeal to fight hunger in African Sahel region faces huge shortfall

UN appeal to fight hunger in African Sahel region faces huge shortfall

With severe malnutrition threatening 1.5 million children under five in five sub-Saharan countries, where 300,000 children already die each year from the scourge, the United Nations is voicing deep concern at an 85 per cent shortfall in the emergency appeal launched five weeks ago to feed one of the world’s poorest regions.

Over all, 5 million people will need food aid to various degrees this year in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, yet only 15 per cent of the $92 million sought on 28 March has so far been committed, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest update.

“The humanitarian community is deeply concerned at the situation as the Sahel (sub-Saharan region) approaches what is going to be a difficult juncture despite a good harvest,” it added.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are increasing their food distributions in nutritional centres in the most vulnerable regions of Niger, where drought and locust infestations caused a food emergency last year.

In Mauritania, more than 11,000 tonnes of food will be need in the coming months to feed over 400,000 people and the WFP risks running out of cereal stocks by June.

The $92-million appeal covers programmes to be implemented by seven UN agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), OCHA, UNICEF, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), WFP and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Afrique verte.