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UN warns up to 18 million face severe food insecurity in Africa's Sahel region

In the Sahel, 7.7 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from malnutrition.

A child at a humanitarian camp on the southern edge of Bamako, Mali’s capital city.
A child at a humanitarian camp on the southern edge of Bamako, Mali’s capital city.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE UNITED NATIONS has warned that up to 18 million people in the Sahel face severe food insecurity, with rations being cut due to funding shortages.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that conflict, the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and rising costs were colliding to put basic meals out of reach for millions of people in Africa’s semi-arid sub-Saharan belt.

WFP said rations had already been cut in some affected areas and faced further cuts unless international donors step up with more money.

“Up to 18 million people in Africa’s Sahel region will face severe food insecurity over the next three months – the highest number since 2014,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters.

“In the Sahel, 7.7 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from malnutrition. 1.8 million are severely malnourished and if aid operations are not scaled up, this number could reach 2.4 million by the end of this year.

The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, where people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August.

The UN has released $30 million (€28.4m) from its Central Emergency Response Fund for the four countries.

Rations cut 

The region is experiencing some of its driest conditions since 2011.

WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said needs were sky-high but resources were at rock-bottom.

He said the number of food insecure people had increased by 41 percent in Mali, 82 percent in Mauritania and 91 percent in Niger compared to 2021.

In Burkina Faso, WFP rations are at 75 percent in the areas hardest to reach and most food insecure, while they are at 50 percent in other sites.

In Chad, low funding levels have seen WFP reduce emergency rations for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to 50% since June, said Phiri.

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“If additional contributions are not received, as indicated, we will have no choice but to reduce rations even further from July 2022,” he told reporters.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is also exacerbating the situation.

Food prices were already increasing sharply before the conflict, but its impact on global food, fuel and fertiliser supply chains could drive food costs up even further, the WFP said.

The lack of fertiliser could compromise the recovery of agricultural production in 2022, the agency added.

It was targeting assistance to 7.15 million people between June and September and aiming to reach the most acutely food insecure households, refugees and IDPs.

- © AFP 2022

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