The Sahel is a lateral, semi-arid region across northern Africa. The region lies between the arid Sahara in the north and the humid savannas in the south. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal make up the Sahel.
Throughout history, the Sahel has cycled into periods of famine from unstable agriculture caused by drought. High food prices, conflict and displacement have driven millions of people into acute hunger and malnutrition. In 2018, more than 1.3 million children across the Sahel's six countries required treatment of severe acute malnutrition, a 50 percent spike compared to the year before.
And the nutrition crisis continues, exacerbated by climate change and COVID-19.
Over 60 percent of the population in the Sahel is aged 25 or younger, making it even more critical to address the region's food crisis, so that the next generation can survive and thrive.
UNICEF is responding to both the immediate and long-term needs of vulnerable children and families in the Sahel by delivering Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a lifesaving treatment for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and providing safe water to improve hygiene and protect against waterborne diseases and COVID-19.
"Malnutrition silently stalks children across the Sahel," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. "We have been able to deliver the supplies and medicines these children need to survive, but equally important are investments in preventive measures and early detection to stop children from getting sick in the first place."
UNICEF works with local governments to improve and secure food availability in communities, and to access and use local food resources. UNICEF also partners in the region to provide quality health and other social services, and recently increased its staff presence to strengthen the response.
Learn how UNICEF works to address climate change and its impact on children.
Learn how UNICEF responds to famine and food crises globally.