UNICEF warns of looming children’s crisis in the Sahel

Work must begin “at once” to prevent a disastrous food crisis in West Africa, according to UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

“More than one million children in the Sahel region of Africa could face life-threatening malnutrition in 2012 if the global community does not take immediate action,” Lake said in a statement.

Poor harvests are putting the lives of many hundreds of thousands of children and families at risk across the Sahel region of West and Central Africa.

“Significant numbers of children in the Sahel already suffer from malnutrition, making them all the more vulnerable,” Lake said.

In Niger, more than 300,000 children under five are at risk of severe or acute malnutrition. The government has issued an alert saying that more than half the country’s villages are vulnerable because crops have failed this year.

Other countries and regions where children are expected to need specialist treatment are Chad, northern Nigeria, the north of Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and northern Senegal.

“The children at risk today in the Sahel are not mere statistics by which we may measure the magnitude of a potential humanitarian disaster,” Lake said.

“They are individual girls and boys, and each has the right to survive, to thrive and to contribute to their societies. We must not fail them. The challenge is great and the window is closing.”

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