Appealing for urgent help for the area, a band of desert stretching across north Africa, the UN said a million children are at risk of malnutrition. "With fears growing of a food crisis in the Sahel in 2012, urgent assistance is now needed," said the UN’s Elisabeth Byrs.
The main problem driving the food shortage is the rising cost of living, she said, with a growing number of people unable to afford basic foods. And to make matters worse, at the same time there has also been a drop in the amount of food produces. The numbers signal a massive problem with food availability next year, said the European commission. "The crisis is already here, all we can do is try to mitigate its impacts on the population," said Thomas Yanga from the World Food Programme
Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Chad are among the worst hit countries."The number varies between five and seven million people who are, right now, in a situation of food insecurity and needing help," he said at a media conference in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. Some Sahel countries, such as Niger and Mali have drawn up emergency plans alongside the World Food Programme. And said several countries in the region are preparing to appeal for emergency funds in 2012, said Byrs. But other countries are still doing surveys to find out how badly the food shortage will affect their people. "Drought is here," said Yanga, calling for governments to buy seeds and fertilisers for the next growing season. "The best we can do is meet the immediate needs of the populations."
The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) says it is working on a major aid project for the region, to start in the New Year. It said 1.02 million children from the Sahel risk malnutrition in 2012 and said its initial appeal for £42m would be raised. Those most in need are in the west African country of Niger, where 330,600 children under five are estimated to be at risk, Unicef says.
"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," David Gressly told Reuters news service."Too often the massive response comes when the crisis is already deepening and on the six o'clock news," she said. "We have to be ready to act independently of the news cycle."