A senior UN official said here Tuesday that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is worried about an unfolding food and nutrition crisis that is impacting several West African nations.
"Across the Sahel region of West Africa, we are extremely concerned that millions of people will be affected by a combination of drought, poverty and high grain prices, which coupled with environmental degradation and chronic underdevelopment is expected to result in a new food and nutrition crisis," said Catherine Bragg, UN assistant secretary-general and deputy emergency relief coordinator for OCHA.
Bragg told a press conference here about her Feb. 7 trip to Dakar, where she examined preparedness and early response measures the UN is taking to help with the crisis, which she said has already begun for many people in the Sahel region.
The Sahel, a band of land that stretches across Africa below the Sahara desert, is prone to drought and experienced a previous food crisis in 2010.
"We already know that an estimated 10 million people or more are struggling to get enough to eat, including 5.4 million in Niger alone," Bragg said. "In the region more than a million children under the age of five are at risk of severe, acute malnutrition, that is up from 300,000 last year."
"Since September last year, we have been sounding the alarm that the situation in the Sahel was likely to become a major humanitarian crisis by the spring of this year if nothing was done to reverse the trend," she said.
She said that Niger, BurkinaFaso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and the northern parts of Nigeria and Cameroon are likely to be affected by the crisis in the coming months.
According to Bragg, although not all countries have submitted statistics to the UN yet, the numbers of food insecure look to be staggering.
"Together the total estimated figures could easily exceed 12 million," she said. "Forecasts point to a poor and early lean season which could start as early as March or April instead of May as in previous years."
Bragg said that OCHA has learned, through its experiences in the recent Horn of Africa crisis that "early warning must be followed by early action," and has acted accordingly.
"Early action means pre-positioning emergency food assistance, supporting blanket feeding for malnourished children and making available lifesaving treatment for acutely malnourished children," she said. "Early funding will be necessary to secure the resources required and we need donors to be decisive and generous now."
Bragg outlined the key objectives of the UN's Revised Sahel Strategy which she said will require 724 million U.S. dollars to provide immediate intervention in the region in 2012.
"General food distribution targeting the most vulnerable is planned for the lean season which will begin in March and April and last through August," she said. "The nutritional status of children is also being monitored closely so that those who require therapeutic feeding can be referred to centers as soon as they become malnourished."
She thanked donors that have already provided 136 million U.S. dollars for the Sahel strategy, but said that more donors and governments "must act now" to help fully fund the plan.
Bragg also reported that OCHA will team up with the UN Development Program (UNDP) to help tackle the emerging crisis.
"Valerie Amos, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator and Helen Clark the administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) have prioritized collaboration between humanitarian and development partners to address the looming crisis in the Sahel and develop medium to long term resilience building strategies and deal with underlying causes of these recurring crises," she said.
The two will travel to Niger from Feb. 16-18, said Bragg, in order to evaluate the situation on the ground, as well as the action that the UN is already taking. She stressed that this is the first time that the two have undertaken such an effort jointly.
"Not long ago, we were calling for early action to contain the food crisis in the Horn of Africa," noted Bragg. "We now have an opportunity to demonstrate that we have learned our lessons from that crisis,that both early action and efforts to rebuild resilience are critical to the Sahel."
"It is very clear that humanitarian response is and can only be part of a longer term, comprehensive strategy involving local communities, governments, regional organizations, development actors, and many other players," she said.
|< Prev||Next >|
» Drought, food prices fan fears of new crisis
» World Bank calls for more attention on global food crisis
» Thai flood crisis: Updated info for tourists
Latest Category Posts
- UN, WB outline plans to mobilize financing for sustainable energy for all
- UN admits failings as Philippines aid effort gets into gear
- China, Russia return to UN Rights Council
- UN launches $300m appeal in aid for Philippines
- Overwhelming UN vote against US embargo of Cuba
- U.N. mission to probe latest chemical weapon incident in Syria Monday
- Philippines aims for 6.8 million int’l arrivals in 2014
- Harmonising legal standards important for ASEAN integration
- NASA's Voyager 1 approaches outer limit of solar system
- Obama urges Russia to cut nuclear arms by up to third