NEW YORK (December 9, 2011) — An estimated 1,025,000 children in the Sahel region of Africa face severe and life threatening malnutrition during the coming year, according to UNICEF. The organization is preparing to meet what it describes as a "huge challenge" and is already ordering therapeutic foods and distributing emergency stocks.
UNICEF's West and Central Africa office says the biggest caseload, with an estimated 330,600 children under-five at risk of severe and acute malnutrition is Niger, where the government has issued an alert stating over half of the country's villages are vulnerable to food insecurity. Other countries and regions where children are expected to require specialist treatment in clinics are Chad, northern Nigeria, the north of Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and northern Senegal.
"This children's crisis is going to be immensely challenging. We do not issue such warnings lightly, but the scale demands an appropriate response that needs to start now," says UNICEF's Regional Director David Gressly.
"A tragedy will be averted only by an unprecedented effort in the Sahel. This will involve making sure that professionals are on the ground with the right supplies and that enough is done to contain the threat of opportunistic diseases amongst the weakened populations," Gressly said.
UNICEF urgently needs an initial $65,700,000 primarily for nutrition and health interventions and supplies. But this amount will be increased substantially to ensure sustainable interventions over the course of the coming year. These will involve not only enhanced nutrition and health programs but also provision of clean water, sanitation at feeding centers as well as emergency education and protection for children displaced with their families.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian aid organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health and immunizations, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency and disaster 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 13 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.