More funding needed as children’s emergency grows in West and Central Africa

Nearly a quarter of a million children under age five suffering from severe acute malnutrition have received lifesaving treatment in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa during the first four months of the year, UNICEF said today. The agency urgently needs more funds for children and women in the region who are under threat from diseases like cholera and victims of the crisis displacing people from Mali. The agency forecast that over the course of the year at least 1.1 million children will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

NEW YORK (June 11, 2012) — Nearly a quarter of a million children under age five suffering from severe acute malnutrition have received lifesaving treatment in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa during the first four months of the year, UNICEF said today.

The agency urgently needs more funds for children and women in the Sahel region who are under threat from diseases such as cholera and victims of the crisis displacing people from Mali. UNICEF needs an additional $146 million for the Sahel for the remainder of 2012.

The agency forecast that over the course of the year at least 1.1 million children will need to be treated for severe acute malnutrition. UNICEF has increased to 5,200 the number of specialist treatment centers established to cope with the crisis in nine countries. The biggest upsurge in children needing help will be over the coming three months because the region is now in the driest and harshest period of the year.

Continuing conflict in Mali, which has forced 170,000 people from their homes and into three neighboring countries, is creating new demands and problems in ensuring secure access to aid. Another 167,000 people have been displaced within the country.

“There is no doubt the money given earlier this year has helped us considerably to be prepared and save lives,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Manuel Fontaine.

“Across the Sahel we are dealing with multiple needs to save lives and help children, and the Mali crisis has only put more children in danger. So far we have received money primarily for the immediate nutrition response. But the lack of funds for other vital work prevents us from doing all that we can for children and their parents in what is their time of greatest need,” he said.

UNICEF is planning an integrated response that takes into consideration the most pressing needs. Vaccination campaigns must be conducted to prevent epidemics. So far this year, more than six million children have been vaccinated against measles and more than nine million have received a treated bed net to reduce the risk of malaria. Measures need to be put in place before the rains to prevent outbreaks of cholera. The disease is endemic in many areas affected by the crisis.

In addition, children in northern Mali are at risk of abuse and recruitment into armed groups, and education support needs to be given across the nine countries affected by the nutrition crisis because children from distressed communities are dropping out of school.

The United Nations says about 18 million people are affected by a drought and food crisis in the nine countries of the Sahel region. This past December UNICEF warned that between one and 1.5 million children would need lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition. The Sahel nutrition crisis covers the entire territories of Burkina Faso, Gambia (which was included earlier this year), Mali, Mauritania and Niger; the Sahel belt of Chad and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.

UNICEF’s updated 2012 funding requirement of $238 million for the Sahel takes into account the nutrition crisis, the Mali emergency, and the threat of cholera and other epidemics. So far emergency appeals have secured some $93 million for UNICEF’s emergency response.

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, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, kschoop@unicefusa.org