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UN agencies warn again of record hunger next year in West and Central Africa


More than 35 million people, including 6.7 million children, are currently unable to meet their nutritional and basic food needs, according to the latest analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Children’s Fund United Nations (UN).UNICEF), and the World Food Program (WFP).

They warn that the number could rise unless urgent and long-term solutions to the crisis are not delivered soon.

Towards disaster

The situation is particularly worrisome in the Liptako-Gourma tri-border region between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, where 25,500 people will experience catastrophic famine during the grainy season from June to August next year.

“The outlook for food security and nutrition in 2023 is extremely worrisome and this should be last wake-up call to governments in the region and their partners,” speak Chris Nikoi, WFPRegional Director for West Africa.

“Strengthening the resilience of communities must become a single and collective focus for all of us if we want to pull this back before it’s too late,” he added.

Widespread food insecurity

UN agencies have called on governments in the region to increase their support and investment in food security and nutrition programmes.

Despite factors such as good harvest prospects and good local grain production estimates, food insecurity and malnutrition persist and spread from the Sahel to the coastal states.

The crisis is fueled by persistent insecurity, climate shocks, high food prices, the economic fallout from COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Across Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo, the analysis showed a 20% increase in food insecurity in the last quarter of the year year-on-year. year 2021.

According to Robert Guei, the vast Sahel region, which stretches from west to east across the continent, is “on the verge of a total catastrophe”. FAOWest Africa sub-regional coordinator. In most countries, food availability is decreasing and fertilizer prices are increasing.

“This could have a negative impact on next year’s harvest and aggravating an already serious situation for many rural communities,” he said, adding that “we must act now to strengthen rural livelihoods before it is too late.”

Vulnerable women and children from the islands of Lake Chad are currently living in a refugee camp in Western Chad.

Vulnerable women and children from the islands of Lake Chad are currently living in a refugee camp in Western Chad.

Worrying about children

The UN partners added that acute malnutrition among children under 5 years of age is a matter of concern, especially in the Sahel countries and Nigeria. Rates are exceeding the emergency threshold of 15% in some areas in Senegal, Mauritania, northeastern Nigeria and Niger.

Global rates of acute malnutrition also exceed 10% in many areas around the Lake Chad basin, including Niger, Nigeria and Chad, as well as border areas between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Factors such as conflict, displacement, and limited access to health care and other basic services are among the fundamental causes of acute malnutrition in children under 5 years of age. pregnant women and lactating mothers throughout the region.

Strong approach

Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, reports that the latest data shows that severe childhood malnutrition in many countries continues to be unacceptably high. Okay.

“We need to scale up treatment and pay more attention to preventing childhood undernutrition through a multidisciplinary approach to reach every child,” she said.

United Nations agencies and their partners are committed to addressing this unprecedented food and nutrition crisis through what they call a “robust food systems approach.”

This includes a wide range of integrated and diverse programs aimed at providing food, nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene responses, directed to children, women and other vulnerable groups.

They will strengthen and extend ongoing support for shock-responsive and nutritionally sensitive national social protection systems for pregnant women, nursing mothers, young children. and teenagers.

Building on existing systems at the local, national and regional levels, agencies will also scale up mid- to long-term solutions to strengthen the resilience of crisis-affected communities. , and at the same time support peace building and peaceful coexistence.

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