Disaster is imminent for children in the Sahel region of Africa

UNICEF is warning that there is little time left to stave off a disaster facing more than a million children under five in the Sahel. UNICEF is responding to a crisis affecting an estimated 10 million people caused by poor rainfall and failed harvests in areas of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and parts of the north in Senegal. Conflict in Mali has also increased demand for emergency assistance not only there, but also in neighboring countries that have received refugees.

New York (March 16, 2012) — UNICEF is warning that there is little time left to stave off a disaster facing more than a million children under five in the Sahel. The dry, "lean" season is imminent in eight countries across West and Central Africa affected by drought. This will be marked by rising numbers of children in feeding centers who will need lifesaving treatment.

"Even in a best case scenario we are expecting more than a million children suffering from severe and acute malnutrition to enter feeding centers over the next six months," said David Gressly, UNICEF Regional Director. "More extreme conditions could see the number rise to around 1.5 million, and funding is still not coming at the rate we need to prepare properly." UNICEF is appealing for an initial $67 million for relief operations to save children’s lives and prevent a humanitarian disaster from unfolding.

Governments, UNICEF, other UN agencies and international aid organizations are responding to a crisis affecting an estimated 10 million people caused by poor rainfall and failed harvests in areas of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and parts of the north in Senegal. The conflict in Mali, which has led to people fleeing their homes, has increased demand for emergency assistance not only there, but also in neighboring countries that have received refugees.

"The upsurge of fighting in Mali, as well the acute insecurity in northern Nigeria and elsewhere, are complicating the aid operation," said Gressly. "Without a good emergency response and a sustained effort to reduce risk in the medium to long term, an entire generation faces a future of dependency, poverty and threatened survival."

How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:

Website: www.unicefusa.org/sahel

Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS

Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038


As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, USF will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. But still, 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, m. 646.428.5010, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, m. 917.415.6508, kschoop@unicefusa.org