Wednesday, 26 September 2012

MALNUTRITION: Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa

Author: William Lambers — Published: Sep 18, 2012 at 6:54 amts
There is a struggle for survival ongoing for millions of people suffering from hunger in the Sahel region of Africa. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says that "one child in five in the Sahel dies before the age of five – malnutrition is an associated cause of more than 30% of these deaths."
The Sahel includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, the Gambia, and Senegal.
Drought and conflict have caused food shortages, and families can survive only with humanitarian aid as they await the next harvest. There have been some good rains recently to encourage the growing of food. These same rains have also produced flooding that has impacted over a million people in the Sahel.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) staff survey damage as families leave behind their flooded homes in Niamey, Niger. (Photo by Mahaman Souradja/CRS)
Refugee Crisis from Mali Conflict
The Sahel food crisis is also complicated because of a massive flow of refugees from Mali. In Northern Mali there has been fighting between the government and armed extremist groups. As one victim told the director of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), "Fear pushed me to leave my home. I saw people being killed in front of me when Gossi was taken over by armed groups at the end of June. I did not want to wait for my turn."
The US State Department is alarmed by the increasing violence in Northern Mali and is urging a resolution to the conflict, stating, "We repeat the call on armed groups in northern Mali to renounce any connection with terrorist groups and enter into legitimate political negotiations on the basis of Mali’s territorial integrity." There is significant fear of what may lie ahead should the chaos and hunger continue to proliferate in Mali and throughout the region.
The World Food Programme says it is feeding over 200,000 refugees in the surrounding countries. This includes Mauritania which is hosting over 100,000 refugees while struggling with its own hunger crisis.
The charity Save the Children is urging support for the refugees to prevent malnutrition in the camps. The children need food aid and also psychological and educational support to help them deal with the trauma.
Nutrition for Small Children Critical
Nutritional support for the smallest children is crucial in this crisis The lack of food for children under five years of age causes severe and irreversible physical and mental damage. Surveys being conducted right now by aid workers show high acute malnutrition rates in Senegal, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania.
Save the Children says that throughout the Sahel over one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition. A special food called Plumpy'Nut can save the children from the lifetime damage of malnutrition. Save the Children estimates that 1.5 million cartons of Plumpy'Nut are needed in the Sahel but funding is the issue. Aid agencies are voluntarily funded.

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Article Author: William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of Ending World Hunger. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. …

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