A woman feeds nutritional porridge to her son, in the health centre in Secteur (Sector) 1, a division of Fada N’gourma, the capital of Est Region.
UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0245/OLIVIER ASSELIN

“For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe.” – UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore

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What is the Sahel region?

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.

What is the Sahel food crisis?

Throughout history, the Sahel has cycled into periods of famine from unstable agriculture caused by drought. In addition, high food prices, conflict and displacement have driven millions into acute hunger and malnutrition. Though the nutrition crisis is ongoing, major spikes have occurred as recently as 2012 and 2018 with 50 percent more children at risk of severe acute malnutrition between those dates. Worsening climate change and COVID-19 have made the situation even more dire.

Over 60 percent of the population is younger than 25 years of age, making the Sahel one of the world’s most youthful regions. Thus, it is exceptionally important that the food crisis is addressed to help the next generation survive and thrive.

UNICEF’s response to the Sahel food crisis

UNICEF is responding to both the immediate and long-term needs. As the largest supplier of ready-to-use therapeutic food, procuring between 75-80 percent of the world’s supply, UNICEF is able to get mass amounts of therapeutic food to the Sahel and bring children back to health. UNICEF also provides clean water supplies so that children, already weakened by malnutrition, can practice proper hygiene to protect themselves 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." 

With local governments, UNICEF is working to prevent malnutrition and help communities prepare for future crises by helping improve and secure food availability, access and use of local food resources and quality health and other social services. Further, additional staffers have been onboarded to respond specifically to this crisis. 

Learn how UNICEF works to address climate change and its impact on children. 

Learn how UNICEF responds to famine and food crises globally. 

Help save children’s lives by donating here. Just $55 can provide two-months’ worth of ready-to-use therapeutic food—enough to bring a severely malnourished child back to health.

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