Sahel Food Crisis

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.

More than 850,000 children receive lifesaving treatment, the largest humanitarian effort of its kind ever in the Sahel region.

In late 2011, UNICEF early warning systems predicted that poor rains and failed harvests would create a food and nutrition crisis in West and Central Africa's Sahel region, jeopardizing the lives of more than one million children in nine countries—Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

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Working Against Time to Save Children's Lives

Of particular concern during the Sahel crisis was the 2012 "lean season," the period just before the next harvest when food would be especially scarce. UNICEF appealed for funding and rapidly prepared a comprehensive response plan that included therapeutic food, the prevention and treatment of malaria, immunization, and adequate sanitation.

Swift donor response allowed UNICEF and its partners to jump into action and increase the number of nutrition centers by over 50%, provision them with supplies and equipment, and set up mobile clinics to service isolated areas. In all, it was the most extensive intervention ever seen in the Sahel.

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A Catastrophe Averted, Help Still Needed

By year's end, more than 850,000 children had received treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Millions were immunized against life-threatening diseases, and 7.3 million families received insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria. Steps were also taken to improve governments' abilities to monitor malnutrition and to make families more resilient in the face of similar shocks.

Still, thousands of children have yet to be reached with treatment. The situation in Mali has been complicated by continued civil conflict. And while rains are producing better crops, it can take two years for families to recover from the loss of animals and income. The children of the Sahel still urgently need your help.