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UN agencies appeal for monetary assistance to fight drought, malnutrition in Sahel

The UN said in a statement that monetary assistance would be needed to tackle the impact of drought in West Africa’s Sahel region

Sahel is a semi-arid region in West and North-Central Africa extending from Senegal to Sudan. The region forms a transitional zone between the Sahara to the north and the savannas to the south.

According to the organisation, millions of people in the region are set to be hit by acute hunger and malnutrition hurt by drought, high food prices and armed conflict.

Three UN agencies said they would require greater financial support to help those hit by drought in the region.

World Food Programme, the food assistance branch of the UN, needs US$ 284mn to provide food and nutrition assistance, to 3.5mn people.

UNICEF needs US$ 264mn to help nearly a million children at risk of severe acute malnutrition with therapeutic food and provide access to water, sanitation and education facilities until the end of the year.

FAO needs US$ 128mn, of which US$ 45 million is for urgent activities to prevent the situation from further deteriorating for 2.5mn pastoralist and agro-pastoralists in early departure and high livestock concentration areas.

“We are hearing of people cutting down the number of daily meals and children dropping out of school,” said Abdou Dieng, regional director of WFP for West Africa and Central.

“Those are telling signs of a looming disaster that the world cannot continue to ignore,” Dieng added.

“It is tragic that the same mothers are coming back to the clinics year after year with their children for treatment of severe acute malnutrition, this year in even greater numbers” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa.

“We can break this cycle if we invest now in building resilience – making families, communities and national authorities better equipped to prevent and deal with similar shocks in the future,” Poirier said.

“Building resilience is at the top of FAO’s agenda. What will help stabilize the Sahel is support for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, during this lean season and in the future, to cope with shocks that include climate change and conflicts” said Coumba Sow, FAO sub regional coordinator for resilience in West Africa and the Sahel.