The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today that a lack of funding is threatening its emergency operations in Chad, where two million people are at risk of hunger.
Drought and pest infestation has slashed food production in the country, with cereal production estimated to have dropped 34 per cent compared to 2008, according to FAO.
The agency’s emergency operations expert, Fatouma Seid, said FAO has only been able to mobilize $2 million of the $11.8 million it requested last November for agricultural emergency operations in Chad as part of a UN inter-agency appeal.
“It means FAO will only be distributing 360 of the 11,286 tons of seeds we had been planning to issue to farmers for their next harvest,” she said. “We’d aimed to distribute 6,000 tons of animal feed too, but can only manage 413 tons.”
FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture said last week that the food situation is deeply worrying in parts of the Sahel where more than 10 million people are at risk of hunger.
A death rate of about 31 per cent for cattle was reported last year in western and central areas of Chad while significant livestock deaths were occurring in some parts of Mali.
The situation is particularly serious in neighbouring Niger, where some 2.7 million people will need food aid this year while an additional 5.1 million people in the country were considered at risk of food insecurity.
FAO has raised about $14.5 million for Niger, where emergency relief operations include Government sales of subsidized cereals, comprehensive feeding by UNICEF and WFP, and the distribution of animal feed, seeds and fertilizer by FAO.
“Donors are afraid of a repetition of the 2005 food crisis in Niger, when many people starved to death,” Ms. Seid stated.
“In comparison, there’s less awareness of what’s happening in Chad, although the situation there is just as critical.”
UN relief chief John Holmes is today wrapping up his assessment of the current challenges in Chad, including food security and malnutrition. He visited three nutritional centres in western Chad and interviewed mothers and children on their living conditions and causes of malnutrition.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that 102,000 severely malnourished children in Chad will need life-saving treatment this year. Malnutrition is the underlying cause for half of the deaths among children under five in the country.
In January, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $3.8 for rapid response to the food and nutrition crisis. The humanitarian appeal for Chad is expected to be revised in June and indicate the overall requirement for the response to the crisis.
Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, next heads to neighbouring Sudan to get a first-hand look at the humanitarian situation there, especially in the strife-torn region of Darfur.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some $3.7 billion – or 36 per cent of the overall requirement of $10 billion – has been contributed in response to the 20 consolidated appeals launched for 2010.
These resources meant the humanitarian system could respond to new emergencies – notably in Haiti which amounted to one-third of all appeal funding to date this year – and to continue meeting urgent needs in protracted crises, OCHA’s Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.
While grateful for the continued generosity of donors, especially in light of the impact of the global financial crisis on governments’ humanitarian budgets, she stressed the importance of additional contributions given the significant funding shortfalls for a number of appeals.
Of the 20 appeals, 14 are currently funded below 40 per cent of requirements, with some barely reaching 20 per cent – such as those for Yemen, the occupied Palestinian territory, Guatemala and several West Africa appeals.