While an end to famine conditions was declared in Somalia, another nutrition crisis has begun to unfold in eight countries across West Africa. In the Sahel region, more than 1 million children are now in danger of dying from severe acute malnutrition. UNICEF has launched a global fundraising campaign in Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Australia and other countries to raise around HK$940 million (US$120 million) to scale up the humanitarian action and help the vulnerable children. UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, is also visiting Chad, one of eight countries in the Sahel.
Over 15 million people in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal are directly affected by the crisis. The region has already been weakened by successive emergencies, including the droughts in 2005 and 2010, and many families were forced to sell their livestock, pull children out of school, borrow money and get by with less food. Five countries of the region (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) have declared a crisis and called for international assistance.
UNICEF has been preparing for the last seven months to meet the extreme needs in the Sahel. Ready-to-use therapeutic food has been dispatched for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition among children under five to all eight affected countries.
Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director is having a three-day visit to Chad to meet with vulnerable communities. Facing the triple shock of drought, high food prices and instability, UNICEF calculates that at least 127,000 children under the age of five are at high risk of dying. The country is also dealing with a large-scale polio outbreak. There were more than 130 cases in 2011, the highest in Africa.
On the other hand, Christopher Tidey, UNICEF Communication Specialist is in Niger this week in support of emergency relief, and will be tweeting live from the field.
“Though we are miles away from the Sahel, we can still join the life-saving effort and avert the nutrition crisis before it turns to another famine,’ said Ms Irene Chan, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF, “With just HK$12, less than what we spend on a meal, we can treat a malnourished child a day of therapeutic food and – save a life.” Hong Kong people can simply visit our donation page or call on 2833 6139 to make their generous support. They can also get the updates of the crisis by following Christopher ontwitter.