ADDIS ABABA – About 27 million people are suffering from hunger in West Africa region hit by the worst food crisis in a decade, aid agencies said.
The figure could even increase to “a historic level “ of 38 million this June unless urgent action is taken, warned 11 international organizations including Oxfam, ALIMA and Save the Children in a joint statement Tuesday.
The warning comes a day before a virtual conference on the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel and Lake Chad.
Since 2015, the number of people in need of emergency food assistance in the region – which includes Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria – has nearly quadrupled, jumping from seven to 27 million.
“The situation is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to move to different communities and to live with host families who are already living in difficult conditions themselves,” said Philippe Adapoe, Save the Children’s director for West and Central Africa.
“There is not enough food, let alone food that is nutritious enough for children. We must help them urgently because their health, their future and even their lives are at risk.”
The United Nations has estimated that 6.3 million children aged 6-59 months will be acutely malnourished this year, an increase of almost 30 percent from 2021.
To add to the already dire situation, experts have predicted that war in ukrain, one of the major wheat producer in the world, could push food prices up to 20 percent worldwide – “an unbearable increase for an already fragile population”.
The conflict will likely significantly reduce the availability of wheat in the six West African countries, which import at least a third or even as much as half of their consumption volumes from the conflicting countries.
“The Sahel crisis is one of the worst humanitarian crises on a global scale and, at the same time, one of the least funded,” said Mamadou Diop, the regional representative of Action Against Hunger.
“We fear that by redirecting humanitarian budgets to the Ukrainian crisis, we risk dangerously aggravating one crisis to respond to another,” Diop added.
Denmark has, for instance, announced that it will redirect about half of its entire bilateral development assistance to Burkina Faso and Mali this year, to fund the support of people displaced from Ukraine, the statement says.
Humanitarian organizations are urging donors not to repeat the failures of 2021, when only 48 percent of the humanitarian response plan in West Africa was funded.
They must immediately close the $4 billion funding gap in the UN appeal for West Africa to save lives and ensure that these funds support age-, gender-, and disability-sensitive interventions, they said. “No one should be left behind.”